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great lakes, michigan, freshwater conservation, biodiversity, nature conservancy

The Nature Conservancy, working with the Michigan Natural Features Inventory and Nature Conservancy of Canada, has completed biodiversity conservation strategies—or “blueprints”—for Lakes Ontario, Erie, Huron and Michigan. Nature Conservancy of Canada has independently produced a biodiversity conservation assessment for Lake Superior.

The blueprints reveal that, overall, the nearshore and open waters, connecting channels, coastal wetlands, islands, and native migratory fish in the lakes face many challenges, but remain in restorable condition. Similarly, coastal areas such as beaches, bluffs, dunes, and shoreline forests are doing very well in some areas and poorly in others.

Critical problems for all lakes include:

  • Aquatic and terrestrial invasive species
  • Dams and other barriers to passage of migratory fish
  • Hardened shorelines (except for Lake Superior)
  • Incompatible coastal development
  • Pollution from agricultural and urban non-point sources
  • Climate change

Key strategies for Lakes Ontario, Erie, Huron and Michigan include improving coordination among states, provinces, and federal governments to:

  • Prevent and detect invasive species
  • Promote and expand the use of compatible development approaches and green infrastructure to reduce storm water runoff
  • Conserve and protect natural areas
  • Improve the effectiveness of agricultural best management practices that keep sediments and nutrients on the land

The authors thank the US Environmental Protection Agency Great Lakes National Program Office and Region 2, Canada – Ontario Agreement Respecting the Great Lakes, Environment Canada, the Erb Foundation, the Chrysler Foundation, the Mott Foundation, The Nature Conservancy and Nature Conservancy of Canada for funding to develop the Great Lakes Biodiversity Conservation Strategies.