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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

Creating efficient conservation actions through collaboration and sound science

Region 3, September 24, 2012
Oberlin College student, Joshua Morse, holding a jumbo Lake Erie rainbow smelt. These commonly occur in the eastern Great Lakes basin and are a focal forage fish species identified as part of the study on climate change impacts to the Great Lakes aquatic food web. Photo by USGS.
Oberlin College student, Joshua Morse, holding a jumbo Lake Erie rainbow smelt. These commonly occur in the eastern Great Lakes basin and are a focal forage fish species identified as part of the study on climate change impacts to the Great Lakes aquatic food web. Photo by USGS. - Photo Credit: n/a

Natural resource managers today are presented with unprecedented challenges that threaten the continued protection, conservation and management of land, water and wildlife, from impacts of climate change to habitat fragmentation and invasive species.

In 2012, the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC), part of a network of science-driven partnerships aimed at addressing these large scale natural resource stressors, continues to advance the pool of science-based research necessary for land use managers, policy makers and others to make decisions that support long-term sustainability of the Great Lakes, its animals and its people.

Great Lakes Restoration Initiative provided $500,000 in 2012 to expand research guided by the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes LCC. This ongoing research aims to prioritize terrestrial wildlife and advance fishery management techniques in the face of climate change and build a sound strategy for targeting aquatic connectivity efforts across the Great Lakes basin.

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources led an effort among scientists and natural resource managers to identify priority terrestrial wildlife species that may be especially vulnerable to impacts of climate change. Species identified from the research include Eastern massasauga rattlesnake, white-tailed deer, Blanding’s turtle, ruffed grouse and snowshoe hare. Researchers are now forging ahead with quantitative vulnerability assessments for a subset of these identified species to determine how climate change may impact future distribution and abundance.

The eastern massasauga rattlesnake was identifed as a priority terrestrial wildlife species that may be especially vulnerable to impacts of climate change. Photo by Ohio Biodiversity Conservation Partnership.

Researchers from U.S. Geological Survey and Ohio Division of Wildlife continue to work to address regional climate change impacts on aquatic food webs in the Great Lakes, with the ultimate goal of adapting fishery management techniques that consider current and continued climate change trends, and more efficiently monitor fishery populations. Research is focused on dominant prey and predator fishes during spring, summer and fall between the central and eastern basins of Lake Erie. This data will allow researchers to understand how certain species respond to seasonal environmental variability in relation to long-term climate change.

Researchers from state and federal natural resources agencies, academic institutions and non-governmental entities across the Great Lakes are continuing to fill knowledge gaps that limit strategic removal of barriers to fish migration. The waterways that connect the Great Lakes with their tributaries are widely fragmented from construction of dams and road crossings. Researchers are working to map the location and attributes of barriers across the basin in relation to fish breeding habitat, which can help decision makers at local, state and regional levels, optimize on-the-ground habitat restoration and fish passage projects, and provide a systematic framework for weighing benefits and costs of barrier removal.

These and other LCC-funded projects continue to transcend boundary lines to generate the most advanced and scientifically-solid data to guide the natural resources communities of the Great Lakes. The partnerships and data produced are critical to informing the protection and conservation of these unique and valuable natural resources.

For the most up to date information of Upper Midwest and Great Lakes LCC activities, visit greatlakeslcc.org

Contact Info: Joanna Gilkeson, 6127135170, Joanna_Gilkeson@fws.gov