Environmental Issues Facing the Great Lakes


EnvironmentalIssues Facing the Great Lakes


LakesMichigan, Superior, Erie, Huron, and Ontario form the Great Lakes andconstitute 18% of the volume of all freshwater lakes in the world.With their waterways spanning across international borders, theyprovide food and economic sustainability by enabling agriculture,industrial activities, tourism and maritime commerce. States aroundthe lakes generate 18 billion dollars yearly from activities withinthe lakes or supported by them. Though utilizing these resources ispositive economically, environmental wise it leads to dilapidation ofthe ecosystem through climate change and pollution.

Dueto consumption and degradation, water in the lakes is always in afluctuating state. Mostly water levels are dropping, based on recordsfrom 1960 the average water levels now are lower. Climate changewill further the reduction due to excess evaporation as a result ofexcess heat, a product of global warming. Human consumption plays arole too, with the growth of cities, the need for water increases.

Wetlandsprovide seasonal reproductive grounds from amphibians, migratorywaterfowls, and fish. They also anchor the soils and sedimentsagainst erosion, while at the same time filtering pollutants. Thehealth of the water lands determines the vegetation distribution andecological functions they include marshes, bogs, swamps, and fensalong the Great Lakes shorelines. These wetlands when drained orpolluted, many species lose their habitats, water quality dropsbecause it is not cleansed anymore.

Thefood cycle supported by the great lake’s aquatic system has beencompromised by human activities through time. The results have been adecrease in fish population, pollution, and disruption of spawninghabitats. Commercial fishing was high in the 1880s, but it was notuntil water pollution exceeded that fish populations declineddrastically in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This was done by theuse of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBS) which was banned in theUnited States in the 1970s. PCB corrupted fish to the point that theywere not fit for consumption because they contained the chemical inthem.

Mostof the human population living around the Great Lakes is located inLake Erie’s drainage basin making it more susceptible to pollutionfrom sewage and treatment plants. Being a shallow lake, it wasseverely affected by eutrophication which resulted in dead zones. Asa result, Cuyahoga River flowing into the lake caught fire severaltimes. Restriction on depositing phosphorus into the lake has donelittle since runoffs from farms continue the pollution process.