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Habitat - Fish Relationships in Great Lakes Coastal Wetlands

Project Summary

Figure 2.
Figure 1.

EPA's Mid-Continent Ecology Division (MED) is studying relationships between fishes and habitat in coastal wetlands of the Great Lakes, as part of a larger NHEERL program to provide the science needed to develop habitat-based criteria for protection of coastal ecosystems. Many Great Lakes fishes depend directly or indirectly on wetlands (Fig. 1), and habitat alteration is an important threat. The research is integrated with MED nutrient research on these same wetlands, and is coordinated with work by the EPA-funded Great Lakes Ecological Indicators consortium (GLEI). We collected data from 58 coastal wetlands over the summers of 2002, 2003, and 2004. Wetlands were distributed across all five Great Lakes and the upper and lower geographical ecoprovince (Fig. 2), included both  riverine and protected type wetlands (Fig. 3), and spanned a gradient in nutrient loading, as inferred from agricultural practices in the wetland watersheds. Data obtained includes detailed information on  wetland fish assemblages (species composition, size structure) and habitat (including wetland morphology and hydrology, water quality, and aquatic plant structure -- Fig. 4), as well as characteristics of the surrounding watersheds (watershed characterization completed by our GLEI collaborators). Analyses are underway to understand patterns in fish assemblages and wetland habitat components and the influence of anthropogenic stressors on these relationships.

Figure 4.
Figure 3.

Internet home page of GLEI collaborators at UMD's Natural Resources Research Institute: http://glei.nrri.umn.edu/

Key products

Our research objectives/approaches and initial results have been presented at various national meetings. Data analysis and generation of manuscripts is in progress. Completed publications from the fish-habitat work and the related nutrient work include:
Morrice, J.A., N.P. Danz, R.R. Regal, J.R. Kelly, J.G. Niemi, E.D. Reavie, T. Hollenhorst, R.P. Axler, A.S. Trebitz, A.M. Cotter, and G.S. Peterson.  2008.  Human influences on water quality in Great Lakes coastal wetlands.  Environmental Management 41:347-357.

Morrice, M.A., A.S. Trebitz, J.R. Kelly, A.M. Cotter, and M.L. Knuth. 2008.  Variability in nutrient levels within and among coastal wetlands of the Lake Superior south shore: role of hydrology and landscape.  In: State of Lake Superior, M. Munawar, Ed., Ecosystem World Monograph Series. in press.

Brazner, J.C., N.P. Danz, G.J. Niemi, R.R. Regal, A.S. Trebitz, R.W. Howe, J.M. Hanowski, L.B. Johnson, J.J.H. Ciborowski, C.A. Johnston, E.D. Reavie, and G.V. Sgro.  2007.  Evaluation of geographic, geomorphic, and human influences on Great Lakes wetland indicators: a multi-assemblage approach. Ecological Indicators 7:610-635. 

Brazner, J.C., N. Danz, A.S. Trebitz, G. Niemi, R. Regal, T. Hollenhorst, G. Host, E.D. Reavie, T. Brown, J. Hanowski, C. Johnston, L. Johnson, R.W. Howe, and J. Ciborowski.  2007. Responsiveness of Great Lakes wetland indicators to human disturbances at multiple spatial scales: a multi-assemblage assessment.  Journal of Great Lakes Research 33(si3)42-66.

Peterson, G.S., M.E. Sierszen, P.M. Yurista, and J.R. Kelly.  2007.  Stable nitrogen isotopes of plankton and benthos reflect landscape-level influences on Great Lakes coastal ecosystems.  Journal of Great Lakes Research 33(si3):27-41.

Trebitz, A.S., J.C. Brazner, V.J. Brady, R. Axler, and D.K. Tanner.  2007.  Turbidity tolerances of Great Lakes coastal wetland fishes.  North American Journal of Fisheries Management 27:619-633.

Trebitz, A.S., J.C. Brazner, A.M. Cotter, M.L. Knuth, J.A. Morrice, G.S. Peterson, M.A. Sierszen,  J.A. Thompson, and J.R. Kelly.  2007.  Water quality in Great Lakes coastal wetlands: Basin-wide patterns and response to an anthropogenic disturbance gradient. Journal of Great Lakes Research 33(si3):67-85.

Trebitz, A.S. and D.L. Taylor.  2007.  Exotic and invasive aquatic plants in Great Lakes coastal wetlands: distribution and relation to watershed land use and plant richness and cover.  Journal of Great Lakes Research. 33:705-721.

Hill, B.H., C.M. Elonen, T.M. Jicha, A.M. Cotter, A.S. Trebitz, and N.P. Danz.  2006.  Sediment microbial enzyme activity as an indicator of nutrient limitation in Great Lakes coastal wetlands.  Freshwater Biology 51:1670-1683.

Sierszen, M.E., G.S. Peterson, A.S. Trebitz, J.C. Brazner, and C.W. West.  2006.  Hydrology and nutrient effects on food web structure in ten Lake Superior coastal wetlands.  Wetlands 26:951-964.

Trebitz, A.S.  2006.  Characterizing seiche and tide-driven daily water level fluctuations affecting coastal ecosystems of the Great Lakes.  Journal of Great Lakes Research 32:102-116.

Trebitz, A.S., J.A. Morrice, D.L. Taylor, R.L. Anderson, C. West, and J.R. Kelly.  2005. Hydromorphic determinants of aquatic habitat variability in Lake Superior coastal wetlands.  Wetlands 25:505-519.

Project personnel

Name E-mail Phone
Anett Trebitz trebitz.anett@epa.gov 218-529-5209
Mike Sierszen sierszen.mike@epa.gov 218-529-5199
Jo Thompson    
Greg Peterson    
Mark Pearson    
Anne Cotter    
Mike Knuth    
Brian Hill    
Jack Kelly    

Research project update date

June 16, 2011

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