Storms, erosion, and high waves
Erosion caused by wind, waves, and human intervention
is an unending threat to the Great Lakes region
Water level extremes and climate change
Based on the General Circulation Model, climatologists
have determined that the climate of the Great Lakes basin will increase
by 2 to 4 degrees Celsius. Warmer air temperatures affect lake levels
by reducing runoff and increasing evaporation from the lake surface.
Commercial navigation, recreational boating, and hydropower are
impacted by extremes in water levels. In 1997-1998 El Nino was responsible
for causing drastic changes in lake levels because of the low snow
cover. Studies have shown that the predicted increase in temperature
will drop lake levels by half a meter to two meters (Government
of Canada / U.S. EPA Great Lakes Atlas).
Spills and persistent toxic chemicals
Any toxic chemical spill will have adverse affects
on the water quality, wildlife, and overall general health of the
Urban sprawl continues to convert forests, agricultural
land, and open space into residential and urban areas, depleting
wildlife habitat. Wetlands, which are natural filters of groundwater
and home to many different plants and animals, have been lost to
agriculture, industrial, and residential uses also.
Threats to water quantity and quality
Some threats to water quality include residential
and municipal uses, agricultural runoff, industry runoff and dumping
of heavy metals, phosphorus, and other chemicals. Threats to water
quantity include proposals that continue to be made encouraging
diversion of Great Lakes water to other parts of the world.
What are exotic, invasive, alien,
nonindigenous, or nuisance species?
In general, these terms refer to plants, animals, or microscopic
organisms growing where they don't belong. In the case of plants,
the most common equivalent word is 'weed'. So why are there so many
different terms? Each one has a subtly different meaning. "Nonindigenous"
or "alien" describe a plant, animal, or microorganism
living outside the area where it evolved. "Exotic species"
has the same basic meaning, but is used more to refer to a plant,
animal or microorganism that is a new or recent invader to an area.
In contrast to origin-based terminology, the term "invasive"
describes a way of living and reproducing. An invasive species is
one that can successfully reproduce and spread to form a sustained
population in a new territory. "Nuisance" species are
those that cause problems from a human perspective.
For more information see our ANS Brochure.
What is GLERL doing in regard to
The Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory is NOAA's leading
institution for aquatic invasive species research and is mandated
by law (P.L. 104-332; 16 U.S.C. 4701 et seq.) to conduct such research.
GLERL's research targets two critical areas related to invasive
species: (1) prevention and control to stop the inflow and spread
of new aquatic organisms, particularly via ship ballast, and (2)
minimizing ecological and economic impacts of species invasions
by developing the fundamental ecosystem understanding needed for
adaptive management strategies. GLERL's current research program
includes: assessment of NOBOB vessels, effectiveness of chemical
biocides, effects of new invaders on Great Lakes food web, effects
of food web changes on Great Lakes living resources, and effects
of zebra mussels on nearshore habitat. All of GLERL's current research
on invasive species falls within the priorities set by the Aquatic
Nuisance Species Task Force and builds directly on the National
For more information see
the AIS Program brochure.