Changes in land use are known to cause considerable problems for the environment, and in the Great Lakes basin, impacts to water quality and aquatic natural resources are broad and at time severe. These can lead not only to impairment of functioning aquatic ecosystems but also significant public health risks. Degradation to ecosystem services requires considerable resources to restore and return these ecosystems to states that provide necessary services to residents of the Great Lakes. However, we lack the necessary tools that provide planners and managers with specific targets (i.e., tipping points) that should never be exceeded. The amount of impervious surface or forest cover are two well established tipping point metrics that are used nationally by planners when decisions regarding new developments or new conservation efforts are being planned. It is also known that universal targets do not exist because ecosystem processes vary considerably from region to region.
This project identifies land use indicators and tipping points in Great Lakes nearshore areas that can be used to develop policies, ordinances and land protection programs, and identify restoration priorities needed to sustain Great Lakes ecosystems. Visit our Tipping Points Planner offsite link, the product of this GLRI project, to help your community determine how close a watershed is to known tipping points—the thresholds that, if crossed, change how aquatic ecosystems function—and pinpoint the land use practices driving that.
Ed.Rutherford@noaa.gov and Doran.Mason@noaa.gov
Other project contacts Bryan Pijanowski, Purdue University Brian Miller, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant Mike Wiley, University of Michigan R. Jan Stevenson, Michigan State University Joan Rose, Michigan State University David Hyndman, Michigan State University