Coastal Wetlands of Lake Superior’s South Shore (USA)

  • John BraznerEmail author
  • Anett TrebitzEmail author
Reference work entry


There are more than two thousand coastal wetlands that encompass an area of about 215,000 ha in the Laurentian Great Lakes (LGL) of North America. Coastal wetlands in the LGL are distinguished hydrologically from nearby inland wetlands by a direct surface water connection with waters of an adjacent Great Lake. Daily, seasonal, annual and decadal lake level fluctuations exert important influences on the ecology of LGL coastal wetlands. Levels of human impacts in the LGL are generally greatest in the south, near the larger centers of population and most intense agriculture. Lake Superior is the largest (82,100 km2) and most northern of the LGL and coastal wetlands associated with Lake Superior are among the least disturbed by human influences. The distribution of coastal wetlands along the US shoreline of Lake Superior in Wisconsin and Michigan is skewed towards the southwestern end of the lake due to differential effects of isostatic adjustment following glaciation. The locations, geomorphic settings and basic characteristics of these south-shore wetlands are provided. Great Lakes coastal wetlands come in a variety of shapes and sizes. There is general agreement that there are three primary geomorphic types – lacustrine, riverine and barrier-protected with riverine and barrier-protected being most common along the US shoreline of Lake Superior. Coastal wetlands in Lake Superior are the most peat-dominated and support some of the highest levels of biodiversity among all LGL habitats. Process-oriented work indicates that Lake Superior coastal wetlands, 1) can export considerable numbers of young fish to adjacent bays and nearshore food webs, 2) have unique habitat fingerprints manifest in fish biochemical signatures that can be used to quantify wetland-nearshore interactions, and 3) structure, function, and response to anthropogenic stressors are all strongly influenced by hydrogeomorphic setting. Shoreline and watershed development, invasive species and climate change are among the most challenging factors affecting the integrity of Lake Superior and other Great Lakes coastal wetlands.


Laurentian great lakes Lake Superior Coastal wetlands Barrier-protected Riverine Lacustrine 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Wildlife DivisionNova Scotia Department of Natural ResourcesKentvilleCanada
  2. 2.Mid-Continent Ecology DivisionUnited States Environmental Protection AgencyDuluthUSA

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