are a group of university researchers from across the Great Lakes
basin with expertise in birds, amphibians, fish, aquatic insects,
algae, wetland plants, and water quality.
is the goal of this study?
are developing and testing more sensitive environmental indicators
for assessing the condition of Great Lakes coastal wetlands and shoreline
habitats. We are focusing on indicators of habitat and ecosystem condition
for the plants and animals inhabiting Great Lakes shorelines.
is an environmental indicator?
environmental indicator tells us about the condition of an ecosystem.
A good indicator is relatively easy and inexpensive to measure and
gives a clear signal of condition. Animal and plant communities often
make good indicators because healthy plant and animal communities
require quality habitat and ecosystems.
are environmental indicators used?
indicators are monitored by federal and state natural resource agencies.
Monitoring provides early warning signals of environmental problems,
allowing these problems to be solved before they become severe and
more expensive or impossible to fix.
me an example of an indicator and its use.
the early 1970s our national symbol, the bald eagle, was classified
as endangered in the lower 48 states, with fewer than 1000 breeding
pairs remaining. The low bald eagle population was the environmental
indicator that alerted scientists to a much larger problem, namely
the harmful effects of certain industrial chemicals on animals that
consume contaminated fish. This indicator was the impetus for scientists
to do the monitoring and research that has led to much better understanding
and control of industrial chemicals in the environment.
The fortunate result is that bald eagle populations are climbing
in the lower 48 states. A less obvious, but important, result is
that other creatures susceptible to contaminants accumulated in
fish, such as minks, humans, and other birds of prey, are also benefiting
from these lower contaminant levels.
is unique about this study?
are developing better, more sophisticated ways of evaluating the condition
of our natural resources. Although the bald eagle is a success story,
by the time we became aware that the bald eagle was in danger, the
problem was critical and very expensive to solve. In this study, scientists
are developing a complex of indicators that evaluate many aspects
of the natural community, including plants, animals, and their habitats.
The end result will be a set of environmental indicators that will
provide an earlier warning of developing problems.
the focus on Great Lakes coasts?
Lakes shorelines are important habitat for fish, birds, and other
plants and animals. About 75% of Great Lakes fish species use coastal
wetlands for some portion of their life cycles; thus their populations
are linked to the condition of the coastal margins.
will this research be taking place?
will be working at randomly selected sites along the whole United
States portion of the Great Lakes shoreline, from Duluth, Minnesota,
to Watertown, New York. Most fieldwork will take place during the
summers of 2001-2003.
will the study results be used?
will analyze the data from our randomly selected study sites to determine
which combinations of animal and plant communities and water quality
measurements are the best indicators of condition and the most cost-effective
for state and federal agencies to monitor. Information will also be
provided to other groups in the Great Lakes community interested in
monitoring coastal margin conditions in their area.
this study is NOT:
study is not focusing on any individual shoreline areas or plots of
land. We are not identifying critical habitat, looking for endangered
species, or identifying areas to preserve. We are simply conducting
research to develop better methods for state and federal agencies
and citizen groups to use for future monitoring of Great Lakes coastal
grant from the Estuarine and Great Lakes (EaGLe) initiative of the
US EPA. The EaGLe initiative is funding similar projects on the Atlantic,
Pacific, and Gulf coasts of the United States.