Region 5 Great Lakes Documents
An ecological assessment of invasive and aggressive plant species in coastal wetlands of the Laurentian Great Lakes: A combined field-based and remote-sensing approach. Research Plan
Ricardo D. Lopez and Curtis M. Edmonds, Principal Investigators
EPA National Exposure Research Laboratory
Environmental Sciences Division/ORD
P.O. Box 93478 Las Vegas, NV 89193-3478
The aquatic plant communities within coastal wetlands of the Laurentian Great Lakes are among the most biologically diverse and productive systems of the world. Coastal wetlands have been especially impacted by landscape conversion and have undergone a marked decline in plant community biological diversity in the past. The loss of biological diversity in coastal wetland plant communities coincided with an increase in the presence and patch-dominance of invasive (i.e., non-native and opportunistic) and aggressive (i.e., native and opportunistic) plant species. The loss of biological diversity, by definition, may be the result of the increased presence of invasive and aggressive plant species, and other ecosystem research suggests that such invasive and aggressive plant species may be the result of general ecosystem stress in coastal wetlands. Thus, such losses of biological diversity in the plant communities of Great Lakes coastal wetlands may be related to changes in the frequency of landscape disturbance within a wetland or on the edges of wetlands (e.g., road fragmentation of wetland ecosystems, conversion of wetland ecosystems to agriculture, or wetland hydrology alterations). This project is the first step needed to identify the extent of wetlands being stressed by invasive and aggressive plant species throughout the Great Lakes basin.