Taking the pulse of Great Lakes coastal wetlands: scientists tackle an epic monitoring challenge
Coastal wetlands represent a critical component of the Great Lakes ecosystem, yet many of these systems have been destroyed or severely degraded over the past 200 years. To aid restoration and conservation of these unique habitats, we are implementing a basin-wide monitoring and assessment program involving a consortium of wetland scientists from 9 universities as well as state and provincial agencies. Fish, invertebrate, bird, amphibian, and plant communities along with chemical and physical variables will be assessed in over 1,000 coastal wetland complexes throughout the Great Lakes over a five year period (2011-2015). The overarching goal of the project is to provide policymakers and resource managers scientifically-sound information on the ecological status of Great Lakes coastal wetlands. In the first year of the project (2011) we sampled 152 coastal wetlands and have engaged with resource managers in a number of different states as well as Ontario who are using the project outputs in various ways. As the project continues and our database grows, we anticipate many new and important applications for conservation and management of these vital Great Lakes ecosystems.