State of Lake Superior

State of Lake Superior

M. Munawar
I. F. Munawar
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  • Book Info
    State of Lake Superior
    Book Description:

    Lake Superior was saved from the extremes felt elsewhere because it is the top of the drainage landscape. Superior offered the prospects of greatest success because it was, in general, least altered. Many decades later, Superior serves as the best example of success in recovering from environmental adversity. This is not to say that restoration is complete or that all ecological problems are resolved. The heavy hand of humanity continues to cause important threats to the present and future state of Lake Superior.State of Lake Superioroffers a polythetic view of current conditions in Lake Superior and insightful suggestions about where and how improvements should continue. The chapters range from basic reviews of what we know as a consequence of effective research to explorations of what little we know about challenging environmental issues for the future. Among these are the continuing concerns about contaminants, the burgeoning march of invasive species, and the portent of global change. We find some encouragement in the resilience of this large lake ecosystem. In many respects, it is a success story, as is shown from the insights of research merged with the mindful attention of management agencies.

    eISBN: 978-0-9939184-1-4
    Subjects: General Science, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Biological Sciences, Aquatic Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Henry A. Regier

    It happens that some of Mohi Munawar’s favourite terms, as manifested in the title of this monograph and of the sponsoring society, are also among my favourite words. Here I reflect on some of my recent experiences with these terms.

    First a comment about Lake Superior: It has not yet been degraded as badly as the other Laurentian Great Lakes, but some taxa of fish have been lost. Decades ago my colleague John Goodier (1981) searched old archives to identify various taxa or stocks of lake trout in this lake and how they organized their interactive community before human abuses...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xv-xvi)
    James F. Kitchell
  5. Editorial
    (pp. xvii-xx)
    M. Munawar and I.F. Munawar
  6. Dedication
    (pp. xxi-xxiv)
    Mohiuddin Munawar
  7. Physical and Chemical Regimes
    • An Overview of the Characteristics of Lake Superior Meteorology, Hydrology and Physical Limnology
      (pp. 3-50)
      William M. Schertzer and Yerubandi R. Rao

      The bulk of physical limnological research on Lake Superior has been focused on establishing baseline characteristics and advancing knowledge on the dynamics which also have relevance and impact on ecosystem components. There have been a number of larger-scale investigations of the lake. These include the Upper Lakes Reference Study (ULRS), the Keweenaw Interdisciplinary Transport Experiment (KITES), and the International Upper Great Lakes Study (IUGLS). In addition, monitoring of meteorological and hydrological variables such as water levels and flows as well as lake surveys through the Great Lakes Surveillance Plan continues to provide times-series data necessary for understanding and managing this...

    • Contemporary Lake Superior Ice Cover Climatology
      (pp. 51-66)
      Raymond A. Assel

      A brief discussion of Lake Superior ice cover climatology (Phillips, 1978) was included in an issue of theJournal of Great Lakes Researchdedicated to the Limnology of Lake Superior (Munawar, 1978) almost three decades ago. Much additional information (and analysis) of Great Lakes ice cover has been collected (and published) since then. The objective here is to describe Lake Superior’s contemporary ice cover climatology given additional information and publications since Phillips (1978).

      The annual cycle of ice formation and loss on Lake Superior affects physical processes in and on the lake (Croley and Assel, 1994; Schertzer, 1978) and in...

    • The effects of isostatic rebound and lake level on Lake Superior revealed through GIS: visualizing landscape evolution
      (pp. 67-82)
      Kevin P. Norton

      The Quaternary Period has been a time of great change in the Great Lakes region. More than 10,000 years after the retreat of ice from the Superior basin, glaciers are still controlling the form of Lake Superior. The land has been rebounding after being depressed by huge ice sheets. Differential tilt is occurring, causing the U.S. shore to subside relative to the Canadian shore. Erosion and uplift have created new outlets for the lakes, eventually bringing about the separation of Lake Superior from Lake Huron. Modern lake level is controlled by the elevation of the slowly rebounding St. Marys River...

    • Nutrient Cycling in Lake Superior: A Retrospective and Update
      (pp. 83-116)
      N.R. Urban

      The only comprehensive documentation and assessment of nutrients in Lake Superior was published nearly 30 years ago as part of the 1973 Canadian intensive study of the lake (Weiler, 1978). A decade later Bennett (1986) provided more details on the historical increase in nitrate concentrations within the lake and presented a model that predicted concentrations would continue to increase for at least the next 50-100 years. Since those initial papers, periodic updates on conditions within the lake appeared primarily in reports (e.g., Edsall and Charlton, 1996; Neilson et al., 1995; e.g., Zarull and Edwards, 1990), and some intensive, process-oriented studies...

    • Carbon Cycling in Lake Superior: A Regional and Ecosystem Perspective
      (pp. 117-152)
      N.R. Urban

      Fluxes of organic carbon, the building block of life on this planet, indicate the major pathways for energy and material flow through an individual ecosystem. Balanced carbon budgets are presumed to indicate accurate measurements of the major ecosystem processes and trophic interactions (e.g. Cole et al., 1989; Emerson et al., 1997; Ducklow et al., 2002). Among the world’s large lakes, carbon budgets have been estimated only for Lake Ontario (Eadie and Robertson, 1976; Flint, 1986), Lake Superior (Maier and Swain, 1978; Urban, 2009), and Lake Malawi (Ramlal et al., 2003). Carbon fluxes have been used to illustrate energy flow through...

    • Lake Superior Mining and The Proposed Mercury Zero-discharge Region
      (pp. 153-216)
      W. Charles Kerfoot, Jaebong Jeong and John A. Robbins

      A century and a half ago, mining activity spread across the U.S. and Canadian shorelines of the northern Great Lakes. Most early efforts were ephemeral, as local operations rose and fell in boom-bust cycles. Yet some regional activities persisted for decades to centuries, creating infrastructures of roads, towns, and supporting industry (Benedict, 1952; Lankton, 1991, 1997; Mouat, 2000).

      Both short- and long-term operations contributed to a metal legacy that lies scattered about watersheds and along the shorelines of Lake Superior (Kerfoot and Nriagu, 1999). Two early investigators of Lake Superior sediments, Nussman (1965) and Kemp et al. (1978), suspected that...

    • Nutrient variability in Lake Superior coastal wetlands: the role of land use and hydrology
      (pp. 217-238)
      John A. Morrice, Anett S. Trebitz, John R. Kelly, Anne M. Cotter and Mike L. Knuth

      A defining feature of Great Lakes coastal wetlands is their role as interfaces between lakes and watersheds (Keough et al., 1999). Water levels change in response to changes in lake level, and the unique habitats and biological communities found in Great Lakes coastal wetlands are a result of dynamic hydrologic linkages to both land and lake (Keddy and Reznicek, 1986; Herdendorf, 1992). Coastal wetlands play a significant role in the larger ecosystems of the Great Lakes (Harris et al., 1988; Wetzel, 1992; Brazner et al., 2000). As a result of their favorable physio-chemical environment (e.g., warmer water, reduced wave energy,...

    • Modeling contaminant behavior in Lake Superior: A comparison of PCBs, PBDEs, and mercury
      (pp. 239-286)
      M.D. Rowe, J.A. Perlinger and N.R. Urban

      Lake Superior is relatively remote and is impacted to a lesser extent by direct inputs of anthropogenic pollutants in comparison to the other Laurentian Great Lakes. In spite of the fact that there are few population centers and industries within the Lake Superior watershed, the lake has accumulated persistent bioaccumulative toxicants (PBTs) to an extent that has led to fish consumption advisories (USEPA, 2004a). Research over the past twenty to thirty years has shown that atmospheric deposition is the main source of several PBTs to the lake, such as PCBs (Eisenreich et al., 1981; Perlinger et al., 2004), organochlorine pesticides...

  8. Food Web Dynamics
    • The base of the food web at the top of the Great Lakes: structure and function of the microbial food web of Lake Superior
      (pp. 289-318)
      M. Munawar, I.F. Munawar, M. Fitzpatrick, H. Niblock and J. Lorimer

      Lake Superior has been regarded as a cold, stenothermic and deep mixing ecosystem, resistant to anthropogenic stress. In part, this resistance can be attributed to low population densities and development along its shores. And in part, the perception of resistance has likely been fed by the relative absence of eutrophication (Vollenweider et al., 1974) and exotic species (Grigorovich et al., 2003), two of the best studied stressors known to affect the Laurentian Great Lakes. However, recent work has found that the surface waters of Lake Superior have been warming at a rate of 1°C per decade (Austin and Colman, 2007;...

    • Phytoplankton communities of Lake Superior, 2001: Changing species composition and biodiversity of a pristine ecosystem
      (pp. 319-360)
      Iftekhar F. Munawar and Mohiuddin Munawar

      Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world on an area basis (82,100 km²). It is a cold, stenothermic and ultra-oligotrophic lake with a long flushing time of 177 years (Beeton, 1984). In the early 1970s, at the height of the eutrophication crisis in the lower Great Lakes, summer total phosphorous concentrations in Lake Superior remained quite low (≈ 5 μg l-1), with corresponding nitrate concentrations of ≈ 280 μg l-1and silica concentrations of ≈ 2.3 mg l-1observed (Weiler, 1978). Summer mean chlorophyllaconcentrations observed in this period were ≈ 1.2 μg l-1(Munawar et...

    • Metacommunity Perspective On Zooplanktonic Communities In Lake Superior
      (pp. 361-400)
      W. Charles Kerfoot, Judith W. Budd, James H. Churchill and Changsheng Chen

      There is an intriguing relationship between local and regional biodiversity (Ricklefs and Schluter, 1993; Shurin, 2000). At the regional scale, spatial heterogeneity can promote biodiversity, yet unraveling cause and effect is challenging. Within lakes (Fig. 1), planktonic biodiversity exhibits a positive relationship with water body size, extending up to large lakes such as Lake Superior. Small lakes are characterized by depauperate algal and zooplankton assemblages, whereas the largest lakes and coastal marine environments contain some of the most diverse algal and zooplankton assemblages (Schelske et al., 1972; Dodson, 1992; Kerfoot et al., 2001, 2004a). The relationship holds between trophic levels,...

    • Trends in Spring Crustacean Zooplankton Communities of Lake Superior: Evidence of Planktivory by Lake Herring
      (pp. 401-438)
      Owen T. Gorman, Lori M. Evrard, Michael H. Hoff and James H. Selgeby

      Many studies have demonstrated that the structure and dynamics of crustacean zooplankton communities are greatly affected by fish communities that derive energy from them (Hrbacek, 1962; Brooks and Dodson, 1965; Hutchinson, 1971; Hall et al., 1976; Zaret, 1980; Mills and Forney, 1983; Kerfoot and Sih, 1987) as has been observed in the Laurentian Great Lakes (Wells, 1970, Evans et al., 1980; Evans, 1986, 1990; Johannsson et al., 1991; Johannsson and O’Gorman, 1991; O’Gorman et al., 1991; Rand et al., 1995). The strong trophic link between zooplankton and planktivorous fish has been extended to the predators of planktivorous fish, leading to...

    • Spatial patterns of water quality and plankton from high-resolution continuous in situ sensing along a 537-km nearshore transect of western Lake Superior, 2004
      (pp. 439-472)
      Peder M. Yurista and John R. Kelly

      Lake Superior has been studied intermittently in the past 100 years with respect to its water quality (Beeton, 1965; Weiler, 1978). It is one of the largest lakes in the world, and it has a relatively small watershed and low surrounding population densities. Studies have shown Lake Superior to be an ultra-oligotrophic lake, which has been its historical classification (Munawar and Munawar, 1978). Its oligotrophic character invites comparisons with “blue-water” open ocean conditions, and various facets of Lake Superior’s plankton ecology have been of particular interest in this regard. Water quality, plankton abundance, composition, vertical distribution, and primary productivity have...

    • Status of benthic macroinvertebrates in southern nearshore Lake Superior, 1994-2003
      (pp. 473-492)
      J. Scharold, S. J. Lozano and T.D. Corry

      Benthic macroinvertebrate communities are useful indicators of ecological condition for the Great Lakes (Cook and Johnson, 1974; Wiederholm, 1980). Benthic macroinvertebrates are closely associated with lake sediments, and are impacted by changes in physical and chemical characteristics of the sediments and of the overlying water. Benthic organisms play an important role in the ecosystem by influencing sediment-water interactions and by mediating the flow of energy and material between decomposers, primary producers, and higher trophic levels. Because of the sedentary nature and relatively stable population characteristics of benthic communities, their responses integrate environmental conditions in a local area over extended periods...

    • Changes in the Lake Superior fish community during 1978-2003: Chronicling the recovery of a native fauna
      (pp. 493-532)
      Owen T. Gorman and Michael H. Hoff

      During the 1950s lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) stocks in Lake Superior declined as a result of overharvest and depredation by sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) (Lawrie and Rahrer, 1972, 1973; Smith, 1972a; Lawrie, 1978). By the 1960s and 1970s, the major prey fishes, the ciscoes (Coregonus spp.), especially lake herring (C. artedi) and shortjaw cisco (C. zenithicus), were greatly reduced due largely to overfishing (Peck et al., 1974; Lawrie, 1978; Selgeby, 1982). Following the decline in lake trout populations, fishery management agencies executed a coordinated plan to recover lake trout that included reduction of sea lamprey populations, curtailment lake trout harvest,...

    • Western Lake Superior benthic fish community structure during the summers of 1972-1995
      (pp. 533-556)
      Michael H. Hoff

      A community is an ecological unit that is structured with unique attributes (Odum, 1969). Communities and their dynamics can be described using an integration of multivariate statistical procedures to objectively examine and quantitatively describe those attributes (Gauch, 1985). Patterns in dynamics of fish communities can be used to evaluate effects of changes in population, community, and habitat management to achieve ecosystem management objectives like those developed under the auspices of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (Lake Superior Committee, 2002).

      Water quality degradation, physical habitat destruction, and species invasions have affected Great Lakes fish communities (Spangler et al., 1987). Those large-scale...

    • Community structure and trends in abundance of breeding birds in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin
      (pp. 557-582)
      Michael H. Hoff and Julie Van Stappen

      Communities are ecological units that function in an orderly manner, so their structures include unique attributes (Odum, 1969). Community structure can be described by the complex interrelationships of species abundances using multivariate statistical procedures, and significant differences in community structure indicate differences in habitat types (Gauch, 1985). U.S. National Parks are committed to management of natural resources on an ecosystem basis, and one of the greatest research needs in National Parks is ecosystem study of animals and plants (Dennis, 1972; Halvorson and Davis, 1996). Descriptions of breeding bird community structure and its relationship to vegetative habitat types in the Apostle...

    • Colonial nesting waterbirds in the Canadian and U.S. waters of Lake Superior: patterns in colony distribution and breeding population numbers (1976-2000)
      (pp. 583-624)
      Ralph D. Morris, D.V. Chip Weseloh and Cynthia Pekarik

      The nesting patterns of birds range from solitary nesters to those that nest together in colonies of various sizes. On the North American Great Lakes, birds that nest in colonies either on the ground or in trees are among the most visible of all vertebrate life forms associated with these lakes. The large body size of tree-nesting Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) and Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus), and the large numbers of ground-nesting Ring-billed Gulls (Larus delawarensis), are visible to even the most casual observer. Colonies are typically located on the islands or peninsulas of freshwater and marine habitat, locations...

    • Trophic linkages in the Lake Superior food web: A synthesis of empirical and modelling studies 1970-2003
      (pp. 625-644)
      Timothy B. Johnson

      Lake Superior is the largest (82,100 km², 12,100 km³) and least developed of the Laurentian Great Lakes. As a consequence of low water temperatures (mean annual temperature of 3.6°C) (Bennett, 1978), a relatively small drainage basin composed of igneous rock (156% of the lake area) (Matheson and Munawar, 1978), a narrow littoral zone, and low levels of organic pollution, Lake Superior has extremely low biological productivity (Vollenweider et al., 1974). European settlement began in the 17th century, commercial fisheries began in the 1830s, the first scientific expedition occurred in 1848 (Agassiz, 1850), canals were constructed around the falls at Sault...

    • Fish Fauna of Lake Superior: Past, Present and Future
      (pp. 645-664)
      Nicholas E. Mandrak

      Lake Superior, by area, is the largest lake in the world (Horns et al., 2003), but has the most depauperate fish fauna of all of the Great Lakes. This low diversity is the result of both historical (postglacial dispersal) and environmental (climate, water chemistry, physical habitat) factors. Historically, the fish fauna was exposed to a series of threats related primarily to overexploitation, habitat degradation and aquatic invasive species (AIS). Although the threat of overexploitation is greatly diminished, habitat degradation of the nearshore and tributaries continues, and the threat from AIS appears to be increasing, and these latter two threats are...

  9. Taxonomic Index
    (pp. 665-674)
  10. Subject Index
    (pp. 675-704)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 705-705)