Climatic Change

, Volume 40, Issue 2, pp 391–416 | Cite as

Assessing the Impact of Climate Change on the Great Lakes Shoreline Wetlands

  • Linda D. Mortsch


Great Lakes shoreline wetlands are adapted to a variable water supply. They require the disturbance of water level fluctuations to maintain their productivity. However, the magnitude and rate of climate change could alter the hydrology of the Great Lakes and affect wetland ecosystems. Wetlands would have to adjust to a new pattern of water level fluctuations; the timing, duration, and range of these fluctuations are critical to the wetland ecosystem response. Two "what if" scenarios: (1) an increased frequency and duration of low water levels and (2) a changed temporal distribution and amplitude of seasonal water levels were developed to assess the sensitivity of shoreline wetlands to climate change. Wetland functions and values such as wildlife, waterfowl and fish habitat, water quality, areal extent, and vegetation diversity are affected by these scenarios. Key wetlands are at risk, particularly those that are impeded from adapting to the new water level conditions by man-made structures or geomorphic conditions. Wetland remediation, protection and enhancement policies and programs must consider climate change as an additional stressor of wetlands.

Great Lakes shoreline wetlands water level changes impacts 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Anderson, D. R. and Glover, F. A.: 1967, ‘Effects of Water Manipulation on Waterfowl Production and Habitat’, Trans. of the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conf. 32, 292–300.Google Scholar
  2. Bardecki, M. J.: 1991, ‘Wetlands and Climate Change: A Speculative Review’, Canadian Water Resources Journal 16, 9–22.Google Scholar
  3. Bedford, B., Emanuel, R., Erickson, J., Rettig, S., Richards, R., Skavroneck, S., Vepraskas, M., Walters, R. and Willard, D.: 1976, An Analysis of the International Great Lakes Levels Board Report on Regulation of Great Lakes Water Levels: Wetlands, Fisheries and Water Quality. RF Monograph 76-04, IES Working Paper 30, Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 92 pp.Google Scholar
  4. Bellrose, F. C.: 1950, ‘The Relationship of Muskrat Populations to Various Marsh and Aquatic Plants’, J. Wildlife Management 14, 299–315.Google Scholar
  5. Bellrose, F. C. and Brown, L. G.: 1941, ‘The Effect of Fluctuating Water Levels on the Muskrat Population of the Illinois River Valley’, J. Wildlife Management 5, 206–212.Google Scholar
  6. Boss, J. W.: 1976, ‘Impacts of Permanent Flooding on Two Natural Wetlands in Michigan’, M. Sc. Thesis, Department of Botany, Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.Google Scholar
  7. Burton, T. M.: 1985, ‘The Effects of Water Level Fluctuation on Great Lakes Coastal Marshes’, in H. H. Prince and F. M. D'Itri (eds.), Coastal Wetlands, 1985, Proc. of the Great Lakes Coastal Wetlands Colloquium, East Lansing, Michigan, (Lewis Publishers, Chelsea, Michigan), pp. 3–14.Google Scholar
  8. Busch, W-D. N. and Lewis, L. M.: 1984, ‘Responses of Wetland Vegetation to Water Level Variations in Lake Ontario’, in Proc. of the Third Conf. on Lake and Reservoir Management, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C., pp. 519–524.Google Scholar
  9. Carter, T. R., Parry, M. L., Harasawa, H., and Nishioka, S.: 1994. IPCC Technical Guidelines for Assessing Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation, London, UK and Ibaraki, Japan: University College London and National Institute for Environmental Studies, 60pp.Google Scholar
  10. Cohen, S. J.; 1986, ‘Impacts of CO2-Induced Climatic Change on Water Resources on the Great Lakes Basin’, Clim. Change 8, 135–153.Google Scholar
  11. Costanza, R. and Cornwell, L.: 1992, ‘The 4P Approach to Dealing with Scientific Uncertainty’, Environments 34, 12–20,42.Google Scholar
  12. Cowardin, L. M., Carter, V., Golet, F. C. and LaRoe, E. T.: 1979, Classification of Wetlands and Deepwater Habitats of the United States, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, FWS/OBS-79/31.Google Scholar
  13. Croley, T. E., II: 1986, ‘Understanding Recent High Great Lakes Water Levels’, GLERL Contribution No. 499, Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab, NOAA, Ann Arbor, MI, 11 pp.Google Scholar
  14. Croley, T. E., II: 1990, ‘Laurentian Great Lakes Double-CO2 Climate Change Hydrological Impacts’, Clim. Change 17, 27–47.Google Scholar
  15. Croley, T. E., II: 1993, ‘CCC GCM 2×CO2 Hydrological Impacts on the Great Lakes’, in Climate, Climate Change, Water Level Forecasting and Frequency Analysis, Supporting Documents, Vol. 1, Water Supply Scenarios, Task Group 2, Working Committee 3, International Joint Commission, Levels Reference Study Phase II.Google Scholar
  16. Croley, T. E., II, Quinn, F. H., Kunkel, K. and Changnon, S. J.: 1995, ‘Potential Great Lakes Hydrology and Lake Level Impacts Resulting from Global Warming’, Proc. 6 th Symp. Global Change Studies, Dallas, pp. 67–72.Google Scholar
  17. Dennis, D. G.: 1982, ‘Marsh Management Strategies for Effective Waterfowl Production’, Canadian Water Resources Journal 7, 37–45.Google Scholar
  18. Dovers, S. R. and Handmer, J. W.: 1992, ‘Uncertainty, Sustainability, and Change’, Global Environmental Change 2, 262–276.Google Scholar
  19. Farney, R. A. and Bookhout, T. A.: 1982, ‘Vegetation Changes in a Lake Erie Marsh During High Water Years’, Ohio Journal of Science 82, 103–107.Google Scholar
  20. Fooks, B.: 1996, ‘Climate Change and Natural Area Management in the Halton/Hamilton Sub-basin of Lake Ontario’, in L. D. Mortsch and B. N. Mills (eds.), Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Basin Project Progress Report #1 Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change and Variability, Environment Canada, Atmospheric Environment Service, Burlington, Ontario, pp. 104–109.Google Scholar
  21. Found, W. C., Hill, A. R., and Spence, E. S.: 1974, Economic and Environmental Impacts of Land Drainage in Ontario, Geographical Monograph No. 6, Atkinson College, York University, Toronto, Canada, 175 pp.Google Scholar
  22. Francis, G. R., Grima, A. P., Regier, H. A. and Whillans, T. H.: 1985, A Prospectus for the Management of the Long Point Ecosystem, Technical Report No. 43, Great Lakes Fishery Commission, 202 p.Google Scholar
  23. Geis, J. W.: 1979, ‘Shoreline Processes Affecting the Distribution of Wetland Habitat’, Trans. of the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conf. 44, 529–542.Google Scholar
  24. Glantz, M. H.: 1991, ‘The Use of Analogies in Forecasting Ecological and Societal Responses to Global Warming’, Environment 33, 10–15, 27–33.Google Scholar
  25. Hanna, J. E. and Michalski, M. F. P.: 1982, ‘Fisheries Productivity and Water Level Fluctuations in Lac Seul, Northwestern Ontario’, Canadian Water Resources Journal 7, 365–388.Google Scholar
  26. Hardy, P. A.: 1982, ‘Coastal Wetlands: Managing a Fluctuating Resource’, in M. J. Bardecki (ed.), Proc. of the Pre-conference Sessions of the Ontario Wetlands Conference, pp. 133–142.Google Scholar
  27. Harris, H. J., Fewless, G., Milligan, M. and Johnson, W.: 1981, ‘Recovery Processes and Habitat Quality in a Freshwater Coastal Marsh Following a Natural Disturbance’, in B. Richardson (ed.), Selected Proc. Midwest Conf. On Wetland Values and Management, The Freshwater Society, St. Paul, Minnesota, pp. 363–380.Google Scholar
  28. Harris, J. T. and Marshall, W. H.: 1963, ‘Ecology of water-level manipulations on a northern marsh’, Ecology 44, 331–343.Google Scholar
  29. Hartmann, H. C.: 1990, ‘Climate Change Impacts on Laurentian Great Lakes Levels’, Clim. Change 17, 49–68.Google Scholar
  30. Herdendorf, C. E., Hartley, S. M. and Barnes, M. D. (eds.): 1981, Fish and Wildlife Resources of the Great Lakes Coastal Wetlands Within the United States, Volume 1, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, D. C., 469 p.Google Scholar
  31. Herdendorf, C. E., Raphael, C. N., and Jaworski, E.: 1986, The Ecology of Lake St. Clair Wetlands: a Community Profile, Biological Report 85(7.7), National Wetlands Research Center, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 187 p.Google Scholar
  32. International Lake Erie Regulation Study Board (ILERSB): 1981, Lake Erie Water Level Study: Appendix F: Environmental Effects, International Joint Commission, Ottawa, Canada, 166 pp. + annexes.Google Scholar
  33. Jaworski, E. and Raphael, C. N.: 1978, ‘Value of Coastal Wetlands to Furbearers’, in Coastal Wetlands Value Study in Michigan: Phase I: Fish, Wildlife and Recreational Values of Michigan's Coastal Wetlands, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Minnesota, pp. 97–107.Google Scholar
  34. Jaworski, E., Raphael, C. N., Mansfield, P. J. and Williamson, B. B.: 1981, ‘Impact of Great Lakes Water Level Fluctuations on Coastal Wetlands’, in C. E. Herdendorf, S. M. Hartley and M. D. Barnes (eds.), Fish and Wildlife Resources of the Great Lakes Coastal Wetlands within the United States, Vol. 1: Overview, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, DC, pp. 104–298.Google Scholar
  35. Jude, D.J. and Pappas, J.: 1992, ‘Fish Utilization of Great Lakes Coastal Wetlands’, J. Great Lakes Res. 18, 651–672.Google Scholar
  36. Kadlec, R. H. and Kadlec, J. A.: 1978, ‘Wetlands and Water Quality’, in P. E. Greeson, J. R. Clark and J. E. Clark (eds.), Wetlands Functions and Values: the State of Our Understanding, Proc. of the National Symposium on Wetlands, Disneyworld Village, Lake Buena Vistra, Florida, pp. 436–456.Google Scholar
  37. Keddy, P. A.: 1990, ‘Water Level Fluctuations and Wetland Conservation’, in J. Kusler and R. Smardon (eds.), Proc. International Symposium on Wetlands of the Great Lakes, Association of State Wetland Managers, Niagara Falls, NY, pp. 79–91.Google Scholar
  38. Keddy, P. A. and Reznicek, A. A.: 1985, ‘Vegetation Dynamics, Buried Seeds and Water Level Fluctuation on the Shorelines of the Great Lakes’, in H. H. Prince and F. M. D'Itri (eds.), Coastal Wetlands, 1985. Proc. of the Great Lakes Coastal Wetlands Colloquium, East Lansing, Michigan, (Lewis Publishers, Chelsea, Michigan), pp. 33–50.Google Scholar
  39. Laperle, M.: 1974, ‘Effects of Water Level Fluctuation on Duck Breeding Success’, in H. Boyd (ed.), Waterfowl Studies in Eastern Canada, 1969–73, Canadian Wildlife Service, pp. 18–30.Google Scholar
  40. Lee, D., Moulton, R. and Hibner, B.: 1995, ‘Climate change impacts on western Lake Erie, Detroit River, and Lake St. Clair water levels’, Report prepared for the Great Lakes-St Lawrence Basin Project, Environment Canada, Burlington, 44 pp.Google Scholar
  41. Liston, C. R. and Chubb, S.: 1985, ‘Relationships of Water Level Fluctuations and Fish’, in H. H. Prince and F. M. D'Itri (eds.), Coastal Wetlands, 1985. Proc. of the Great Lakes Coastal Wetlands Colloquium, East Lansing, Michigan, (Lewis Publishers, Chelsea, Michigan), pp. 121–133.Google Scholar
  42. Liverman, D.: 1996, Personal communication. The University of Arizona, Latin America Area Center, Tucson, AZ.Google Scholar
  43. Magnuson, J., Webster, K. E., Assel, R. A., Bowser, C. J., Dillon, P. J., Eaton, J. G., Evans, H. E., Fee, E. J., Mortsch, L. D., Schindler, D.W. and Quinn, F. H.: 1997, ‘Potential Effects of Climate Changes on Aquatic Systems: Laurentian Great Lakes and Precambrian Shield Region’, Hydrological Processes 11, 825–871.Google Scholar
  44. Manny, B. A.: 1984, ‘Potential Impacts of Water Diversions on Fishery Resources in the Great Lakes’, Fisheries 9, 19–23.Google Scholar
  45. Markham, B. J.: 1982, ‘Waterfowl Production and Water Level Fluctuation’, Canadian Water Resources Journal 7, 22–36.Google Scholar
  46. McDonald, M. E.: 1955, ‘Cause and Effects of a Die-off of Emergent Vegetation’, J. Wildlife Management 19, 24–35.Google Scholar
  47. McNicholl, M. K.: 1985, ‘Avian Wetland Habitat Functions Affected by Water Level Fluctuations’, in H. H. Prince and F. M. D'Itri (eds.), Coastal Wetlands, 1985. Proc. of the Great Lakes Coastal Wetlands Colloquium, East Lansing, Michigan, (Lewis Publishers, Chelsea, Michigan), pp. 87–92.Google Scholar
  48. Meeks, R. L.: 1969, ‘The Effect of Drawdown Date on Wetland Plant Succession’, J. Wildlife Management 33, 817–821.Google Scholar
  49. Meisner, J. D., Goodier, J. L., Regier, H. A., Shuter, B. J. and Christie, W. J.: 1987, ‘An Assessment of the Effects of Climate Warming on Great Lakes Basin Fishes’, J. Great Lakes Res. 13, 340–352.Google Scholar
  50. Merendino, M., Smith, L., Murkin, H. and Peterson, R.: 1990, ‘The Response of Prairie Wetland Vegetation to Seasonality of Drawdown’, Wildlife Society Bulletin 18, 245–251.Google Scholar
  51. Mitsch, W.J.: 1992, ‘Combining Ecosystem and Landscape Approaches to Great Lakes Wetlands’, J. Great Lakes Res. 18, 552–570.Google Scholar
  52. Mitsch, W. J. and Gosselink, J. G.: 1986, Wetlands, Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, New York, 539 p.Google Scholar
  53. Mortsch, L. (ed.): 1990, Eastern Canadian Boreal and Sub-Arctic Wetlands: A Resource Document, Climatological Studies No. 42, Canadian Climate Centre, Atmospheric Environment Service, Environment Canada, Downsview, Ont., Canada, 169 pp.Google Scholar
  54. Mortsch, L. D.: 1996, ‘Lessons Learned from Past Climate Impact Assessment Research’, in Ecosystem Effects of Atmospheric Change, Proc. of a Meeting Held at Pointe Claire, Quebec, Working Group on the Ecosystem Effects of Ultraviolet Radiation and the Working Group on Climate Change and Variability, Memorandum of Understanding on Science and Technology for Sustainable Development in the Natural Resources Sector, Government of Canada, Canada, pp. 53–64.Google Scholar
  55. Mortsch, L. D. and Quinn, F. H.: 1996, ‘Climate Scenarios for Great Lakes Ecosystem Studies’, Limnology and Oceanography 41, 903–911.Google Scholar
  56. National Wetlands Working Group: 1988, Wetlands of Canada, Ecological Land Classification Series, No. 24, Sustainable Development Branch, Environment Canada, Ottawa, Ont. and Polyscience Publications Inc., Montreal, Que., 452 p.Google Scholar
  57. Patch, S. P. and Busch, W.-D. N., eds.: 1984, The St. Lawrence River-Past and Present: A Review of Historical Natural Resource Information and Habitat Changes in the International Section of the St. Lawrence River, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Cortland, NY.Google Scholar
  58. Patterson, N. J. and Whillans, T. H.: 1985,’ Human Interference with Natural Water Level Regimes in the Context of other Cultural Stresses on Great Lakes Wetlands’, in H. H. Prince and F. M. D'Itri (eds.), Coastal Wetlands, 1985. Proc. of the Great Lakes Coastal Wetlands Colloquium, East Lansing, Michigan, (Lewis Publishers, Chelsea, Michigan), pp. 209–240.Google Scholar
  59. Poiani, K. A. and Johnson, W. C.: 1991,’ Global Warming and Prairie Wetlands: Potential Consequences for Waterfowl Habitat’, Bioscience 41, 611–618.Google Scholar
  60. Poiani, K. A. and Johnson, W. C.: 1993a, ‘Potential Effects of Climate Change on a Semipermanent Prairie Wetland’, Clim. Change 24, 213–232.Google Scholar
  61. Poiani, K. A. and Johnson, W. C.: 1993b, ‘A Spatial Simulation Model of Hydrology and Vegetation Dynamics in Semi-permanent Prairie Wetlands’, Ecological Applic. 3, 279–293.Google Scholar
  62. Prentki, R. T., Gustafson, T. D. and Adams, M. S.: 1978, ‘Nutrient Movements in Lakeshore Marshes’, in R. E. Good, D. F. Whigman and R. L. Simpson (eds.), Freshwater Marshes: Ecological Processes and Management Potential, Academic Press, New York, pp. 169–194.Google Scholar
  63. Prince, H. H., Padding, P. I., and Knapton, R.W.: 1992, ‘Waterfowl Use of the Laurentian Great Lakes’, J. Great Lakes Res. 18, 673–699.Google Scholar
  64. Proulx, G.: 1982, ‘Relationship Between Muskrat Populations, Vegetation and Water Level Fluctuations and Management Considerations at Luther Marsh, Ontario’, Ph.D. Thesis, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ont., Canada.Google Scholar
  65. Quinlan, C. M.: 1985, ‘The Effects of Lake Level Fluctuations on Three Lake Ontario Shorcline Marshes’, M. A. Thesis, Department of Geography, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ont., Canada.Google Scholar
  66. Quinlan, C. M. and Mulamoottil, G.: 1987, ‘The Effects of Water Level Fluctuations on Three Lake Ontario Shoreline Marshes’, Canadian Water Resources Journal 12, 64–77.Google Scholar
  67. Quinn, F. H.: 1985, ‘Great Lakes Water Levels’, in Great Lakes Water Levels: Briefing of Senators and Representatives from the Great Lakes Basin, International Joint Commission, Washington, D.C., North Central Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, pp. 1–24.Google Scholar
  68. Regier, H. A.: 1979, ‘Changes in Species Composition of Great Lakes Fish Communities Caused by Man’, Trans. of the North American Wildlife Conference 44, 58–566.Google Scholar
  69. Richards, T. L.: 1965, Meteorological Factors Affecting Great Lakes Water Levels, Circular CIR.4182, TEC.553, Meteorological Branch, Department of Transport, Ottawa, Canada, 23 p.Google Scholar
  70. Rubec, C. D. A., Lynch-Stewart, P., Wickware, G., and Kessel-Taylor, I.: 1988, ‘Wetland Utilization in Canada’, in National Wetlands Working Group, Wetlands of Canada, Ecological Land Classification Series, No. 24, Sustainable Development Branch, Environment Canada, Ottawa, Ont. and Polyscience Publications In., Montreal, Que., pp. 379–412.Google Scholar
  71. Sather, J. H. and Smith, R. D.: 1984, An Overview of Major Wetland Functions, Report-FWS/OBS-84, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 67 pp.Google Scholar
  72. Shay, J.: 1981. ‘Wetland Protection in the 80's’, in A. Champagne, (ed.), Proceedings of the Ontario Wetlands Conference, Federation of Ontario Naturalists and Ryerson Polytechnical Institute, Toronto, Ont., Canada, pp. 18–25.Google Scholar
  73. Tarnocai, C.: 1980, ‘Canadian Wetland Registry’, in C. D. A. Rubec and F. C. Pollet (eds.), Proc. Workshop on Canadian Wetlands, Report No. 12, Ecological Land Classification Series, Environment Canada, Ottawa, Canada, pp. 9–38.Google Scholar
  74. Taylor, W. W.: 1985, ‘Discussion of “Relationships of Water Level Fluctuations and Fish’, in H. H. Prince and F. M. D'Itri (eds.), Coastal Wetlands, 1985. Proc. of the Great Lakes Coastal Wetlands Colloquium, East Lansing, Michigan, (Lewis Publishers, Chelsea, Michigan), pp. 134–137.Google Scholar
  75. Tovell, W. M.: 1979, ‘The Great Lakes: Geology at Work’, J. Soil and Water Cons. 24, 65–67.Google Scholar
  76. van der Valk, A. G. and Davis, C. B.: 1976, ‘The Seed Banks of Prairie Glacial Marshes’, Canadian J. Botany 54, 1832–1838.Google Scholar
  77. van der Valk, A. G. and Davis, C. B.: 1978, ‘The Role of Seed Banks in the Vegetation Dynamics of Prairie Glacial Marshes’, Ecology 59, 322–335.Google Scholar
  78. Weller, M. W.: 1978, ‘Management of Freshwater Marshes for Wildlife’, in R. E. Good, D. F. Whigman and R. L. Simpson (eds.), Freshwater Wetlands: Ecological Processes and Management Potential, New York Academic Press, NY, pp. 267–284.Google Scholar
  79. Weller, M. W., 1981. Freshwater Marshes: Ecology and Wildlife Management, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 147 p.Google Scholar
  80. Weller, M. W. and Frederickson, L. H.: 1974, ‘Avian Ecology of a Managed Glacial Marsh’, Living Bird 12, 269–291.Google Scholar
  81. Weller, M. W. and Spatcher, C.E.: 1965, Role of Habitat in the Distribution and Abundance of Marsh Birds, Special Report No. 43, Agricultural and Home Economics Experimental Station, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.Google Scholar
  82. Whillans, T. H.: 1985, ‘Related Long-term Trends in Fish and Vegetation Ecology of Long Point Bay and Marshes, Lake Erie’, Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ont., Canada.Google Scholar
  83. Whillans, T. H.: 1987, ‘Wetlands and Aquatic Resources’, in M. C. Healey and R. R. Wallace (eds.), Canadian Aquatic Resources, Canadian Bulletin of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences No 215, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Ottawa, Canada, pp. 321–356.Google Scholar
  84. Wilcox, D. A.: 1993, ‘The Role of Wetlands as Nearshore Habitat in Lake Huron,’ in M. Munawar, T. Edsall and J. Leach (eds.), The Lake Huron Ecosystem: Ecology, Fisheries and Management, SPB Academic Publishing, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, pp. 223–245.Google Scholar
  85. Wilcox, D. and Meeker, J.: 1991, ‘Disturbance Effects on Aquatic Vegetation in Regulated and Unregulated Lakes in Northern Minnesota’, Canadian J. Botany 69, 1542–1551.Google Scholar
  86. Woo, M. K.: 1992, ‘Impacts of Climate Variability and Change on Canadian Wetlands’, Canadian Water Resources Journal 17, 63–69.Google Scholar
  87. Wynne, B.: 1992, ‘Uncertainty and Environmental Learning: Reconceiving Science and Policy in the Preventative Paradigm’, Global Environmental Change 2, 111–127.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Linda D. Mortsch
    • 1
  1. 1.Environmental Adaptation Research Group, Environmental Canada, c/o Faculty of Environmental StudiesUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada

Personalised recommendations