Indicators of Condition, Integrity, and Sustainability of Great Lakes
Principal Investigator: Carol A. Johnston, Natural Resources Research
Institute (NRRI), University of Minnesota, Duluth;
Co-Principal Investigators: Barbara L. Bedford, Cornell University,
Ithaca; Joy B. Zedler, University of Wisconsin-Madison;
US EPA Office of Research and Development Cooperators: John Kelly
and Mary Moffett, Mid-Continent Ecology Division-Duluth, MN.
The major question to be addressed by the master proposal that includes
this subproposal is, "what environmental indicators can most efficiently,
economically, and effectively measure and monitor the condition, integrity,
and long-term sustainability of the Great Lakes coast?"
Specific objectives of this subproposal are to:
1) identify vegetative indicators of condition of Great Lakes coastal
wetlands that can be measured at a variety of scales,
2) develop relationships between environmental stressors and those vegetative
3) make recommendations about the utility and reliability of vegetative
indicators to guide managers toward long-term sustainable development.
It is NOT an objective of this study to inventory Great Lakes coastal
wetlands nor identify coastal wetlands worthy of preservation.
Great Lakes coastal wetlands are subject to both natural and anthropogenic
forces that influence their vegetation. In order to reduce the confounding
influence of natural differences among coastal wetland types, we will
stratify wetlands into four groups based on shoreline geomorphology, and
analyze data for those groups independently: open shoreline, unrestricted
bay, drowned river mouth, and barrier beach wetlands. We will randomly
sample wetlands in the four groups from throughout the Great Lakes, and
also collaborate with researchers at the EPA MED in their ongoing studies
of wetlands along the southern Lake Superior coast. Within each wetland,
plant taxa will be measured in quadrats every 10-20 m along transects
perpendicular to the water depth gradient. Field data will be summarized
to compute indicators of wetland condition ("state indicators")
such as abundance of invasive plants, presence of socially valuable species,
and species richness. Interpretation and measurement of aerial photos
of the wetlands will also provide landscape-scale state indicators, such
as wetland area by type, and habitat adjacent to coastal wetlands. Pressure
indicators (stressors) will be derived from remote sensing and existing
data sources, and stressor/response relationships will be statistically
developed to relate pressure and state indicators.
The final product will allow managers to use the indicators to communicate
with the public on the condition and integrity of the Great Lakes, to
guide development of monitoring programs, to identify areas in need of
restoration or conservation, and to provide input on key indicators that
need to be incorporated into modeling efforts to predict the future condition
and integrity of the Great Lakes basin.