Only 2 of the 5 Great Lakes have good ecosystems according to new report

Lake Erie's ecosystem is considered "poor."
Published: Dec. 29, 2022 at 12:48 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 29, 2022 at 5:23 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - A recent report on the Great Lakes shows that two of the five Great Lakes have a strong ecosystem, while three others have been reported as fair or poor.

According to the report, Lake Superior and Lake Huron were given “good” grades for ecosystems. Lake Huron is now upgraded from “fair” in the 2019 report. Lake Michigan and Lake Ontario are considered “fair,” while Lake Erie’s ecosystem is considered “poor.”

The United States and Canada work together under the 2012 version of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA) to manage and protect these shared waters of the two nations. The report is conducted once every three years as part of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between the United States and Canada.

The ecosystems are graded on nine measures:

  1. Can we drink the water?
  2. Can we swim at the beaches?
  3. Can we eat the fish?
  4. Have levels of toxic chemicals declined in the environment?
  5. Are the lakes supporting healthy wetlands and populations of native species?
  6. Are nutrients in the lakes at acceptable levels?
  7. Are we limiting new introductions and the impacts of non-native species?
  8. Is groundwater negatively affecting the water quality of the lakes?
  9. Are land use changes or other stressors impacting the lakes?

Lakes Huron and Superior received the highest available grade and are considered steady. The report noted Lake Superior’s forest watershed and coastal wetlands help maintain high water quality. Lake Huron was upgraded from “fair” in 2019 because of a decrease in invasive mussels which has also cut down on the number of nutrients in the water that feed algal blooms.

Lake Michigan’s ecosystem is considered “fair and unchanging” according to the 2022 report. Lake Michigan gets credit for its wide array of plant and animal species, but “invasive species and other stressors continue to affect both water quality and the lake’s food web.”

Lake Ontario’s ecosystem is also considered fair but is showing more signs of improvement. The report noted fewer beach closings in recent years and fewer reports of contaminants reported in fish.

Lake Erie received the “poor” rating and is one that does not appear to be improving anytime soon, citing the lake’s persistent algal blooms caused in part by farm runoff.

The full report included topics such as PFAS, water-driven jobs, and marine EV charging.

The full report can be found here.

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