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Testing Indicators of Coastal Ecosystem Integrity Using Fish

Many Great Lakes fish are dependent upon coastal wetlands and coastal margins for some part of their life cycle; these areas are often used for spawning or as nurseries. In addition, the number of fish species is higher in coastal wetlands than in offshore waters. It follows that fish populations are often affected by the condition of coastal habitats. Fish are sensitive to changes in nutrient levels, development of the shoreline, and alterations in wetland plant communities. Sampling coastal margin fish communities will give us information about the quality of the habitat for fish and an indication of the cause of any problems.

We are sampling coastal wetland and coastal margin fish communities across the Great Lakes. In coastal wetlands, fish are captured in fyke nets (large hooped nets that funnel fish into a holding area). Each day, the captured fish are identified, counted, and released back into the wetland. Fish in deeper waters of the coastal margins are sampled by pulling a small trawl net behind a boat for a few hundred meters. These fish are also identified, counted, and released.

Fish Indicators (PDF file)

Scientific Abstract Sampling Fish

Researchers:
Dr. Lucinda Johnson, Natural Resources Research Institute, University of Minnesota Duluth
Dr. Carl Richards, Minnesota Sea Grant, Duluth
Dr. Tom Hrabik, Department of Biology, University of Minnesota Duluth
Dr. Jan Ciborowski, University of Windsor, Ontario, Canada

Cooperators:
Dr. John Brazner, Dr. Naomi Detenbeck, Dr. John Kelly, Dr. John Morrice, Dr. Michael Sierszen, and Dr. Anett Trebitz, US Environmental Protection Agency, Mid-Continent Ecology Division, Duluth, Minnesota