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Ecosystem classification and mapping of the Laurentian Great Lakes

December 21, 2017

Owing to the enormity and complexity of the Laurentian Great Lakes, an ecosystem classification is needed to better understand, protect, and manage this largest freshwater ecosystem in the world. Using a combination of statistical analyses, published knowledge, and expert opinion, we identified key driving variables and their ecologically relevant thresholds and delineated and mapped aquatic systems for the entire Great Lakes. We identified and mapped 77 aquatic ecological units (AEUs) that depict unique combinations of depth, thermal regime, hydraulic, and landscape classifiers. Those 77 AEU types were distributed across 1997 polygons (patches) ranging from 1 to >48 000 km2 in area and were most diverse in the nearshore (35 types), followed by the coastal margin (26), and then the offshore (16). Our classification and mapping of ecological units captures gradients that characterize types of aquatic systems in the Great Lakes and provides a geospatial accounting framework for resource inventory, status and trend assessment; research for ecosystem questions; and management and policy-making.

Publication Year 2018
Title Ecosystem classification and mapping of the Laurentian Great Lakes
DOI 10.1139/cjfas-2017-0242
Authors C.M. Riseng, K. Wehrly, L. Wang, E. Rutherford, James E. McKenna, L. Johnson, L. Mason, C. Castiglione, T. Hollenhorst, Beth L. Sparks-Jackson, Scott P. Sowa
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
Index ID 70203151
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Great Lakes Science Center