Are Great Lakes fish starving? According to a U.S. Geological Survey and three University of Michigan Professors the fundamental amount of phytoplankton is decreasing which limits the food supply for native species. Invasive species such as zebra and quagga mussels are increasing which impacts other species within the system (1).
As phosphorous amounts decline due to the rise of invasive species it impacts phytoplankton growth (2). This growth is necessary to feed fish all the way up the food chain. As the ecosystem goes through fundamental changes it is incumbent to ensure that native species are not lost in the overall process. The Great Lakes are a single entity and unique within the world.
The study has collected significant information over a longitudinal time frame in an effort to understand how fish like Salmon and others have collapsed (3). The lack of phytoplankton is changing even the look of the Great Lakes as water becomes clearer but less able to sustain life.
There are some efforts to restore the Great Lakes as a natural resource. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative includes 11 federal agencies and significant investments of billions of dollars (4). The initiatives plans include a number of goals:
- Cleaning up toxics and areas of concern;
- Combating invasive species;
- Promoting nearshore health by protecting watersheds from polluted run-off;
- Restoring wetlands and other habitats; and
- Tracking progress and working with strategic partners.