Biodiversity is a contraction of the term biological diversity, and was created by 1985 by Walter Rosen of the National Research Council. Biodiversity typically refers to three important indicators of environmental and biological health of a region: the number of species inhabiting that region, as well as the genetic diversity of those species and the diversity of the entire ecosystem. A greater variety of species helps ensure that ecosystems thrive - and also survive, as some species will adapt easier to harsh or changing conditions. Biodiversity throughout the Great Lakes area has suffered tremendously over the past few centuries. Today a great many factors threaten the health and biodiversity of species in the Great Lakes region.

 

Some of the more significant historical and present conditions impacting our bio-region:

 • Decimation of many animals and fish - and also the destruction of ecosystem biodiversity associated with those species, due especially to the fur and fishing industries brought by European settlers

 •  Logging of forests - impacting species life in the woodlands, but also dramatically changing life in our rivers and streams

 •  Damming of rivers, impacting for example, species that travel to safe marshy areas to spawn and travel great distances at other stages of life

 •  Habitat loss from development, including industrial and agricultural use

 •  Air, water and soil pollution from power production and other industrial, agricultural and urban sources – Many of these pollutants are persistent, are difficult to detect and can impact the health and sometimes the       genetic codes of human beings, as well as our flora and fauna. Some pollutants change the pH of our lakes and streams over time, effectively impacting the ability of many species to reproduce. Many pollutants     bioaccumulate in the food chain, with greater harm to those high on the food chain, such as birds or human beings. The widespread use of herbicides and pesticides has had devastating effects - especially on birds,   aquatic life, and also insects - including bees and butterflies, both critical pollinators for our communities' food supplies and beautiful gardens. Plastic and microplastics clog our waterways and harm aquatic life.  Medications flushed down our toilets cannot be filtered out of our drinking water and have also been found in Great Lakes fish!

 •  Climate change has had tremendous impacts on Great Lakes species. With warmer temperatures, species that are adapted to colder or more temperate weather are being challenged – not just by weather, but by   competition for food and habitat by species that are adapted to warmer climates moving in. Climate change also brings stronger storms, flooding, strong winds, droughts, and hotter periods. Warmer lakes together with   overuse of nutrients by humans can result in harmful algal blooms that can contaminate drinking water and halt recreational swimming and diving. Warmer waters reduce ice cover, allowing storms to pick up more   moisture from the water, with greater lake effect snows.

 •  Invasive species – NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) lists 180 invasive species in the Great Lakes. Many invasive species were brought into the Great Lakes region in the ballast water of ships.   Invasives have done enormous damage to Great Lakes ecosystems and have brought many native species to the brink of extinction. Some are household names: including zebra and quagga mussels, the round goby,   purple loosestrife, the sea lamprey and phragmites. Asian Carp is a relatively new and serious threat to freshwater fish and ecosystems.

 

There are many actions you can take to help ensure biodiversity!  A few are listed here:

 

 •  Keep your gardens organic! - Don't use harmful pesticides and herbicides.

 •  Plant heirloom seeds! Save your seeds and swap with others who grow from open-pollinated or heirloom, non-genetically modified seeds.

 •  Plant native species!  Native species help support Great Lakes native insects, birds and animals.

 •  Conserve energy! Unplug! Turn out the lights! Buy energy efficient appliances and go to renewable energy, such as wind and solar, when possible. The production of coal, oil, nuclear and gas for power is responsible for an enormous amount of air, water and soil pollution that impacts our ecosystems and our communities.

 •  Avoid buying plastic!  Microplastics and plastics are clogging our creeks and rivers - and the Great Lakes and affecting our health and that of our ecosystems.

 •  Walk, ride a bike, carpool, take the bus or the train! Combine trips.

 

 

 

Here are a few handy resources. Please check their links!

 

The Michigan Natural Features Inventory (provided by MSU Extension) lists Michigan animal and plant species that are protected under the Endangered Species Act of the State of Michigan. They also have many useful maps and other data resources, including historic land cover and wetland cover change maps publications and reports, (among them presentations from a 2007 Symposium on Biodiversity Research) and a section on invasive species. They also include a County Element Data search site for endangered species for all Michigan counties:  http://mnfi.anr.msu.edu/data/cnty_dat.cfm?county=74

 

Michigan's Special Animals - http://mnfi.anr.msu.edu/data/specialanimals.cfm

 

Michigan’s Special Plants - http://mnfi.anr.msu.edu/data/specialplants.cfm

 

Michigan Sea Grant has a great site on biodiversity – See: http://www.miseagrant.umich.edu/explore/restoration/biodiversity/

 

The Great Lakes Information Network has a page on Climate Change in the Great Lakes Region: http://www.great-lakes.net/envt/refs/cchange.html They also have a page on biodiversity, with many terrific links: http://www.great-lakes.net/envt/flora-fauna/biodivers.html

 

NOAA – National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency’s page on invasive species in the Great Lakes:  http://www.regions.noaa.gov/great-lakes/index.php/great_lakes-restoration-initiative/invasive-species/

 

The Union of Concerned Scientists has a Climate Hot Map that shows Global Warming Effects Around the World: http://www.climatehotmap.org/ You can make the map larger and focus in on impacts to the Great Lakes. Here are some of their observations and predictions for freshwater lakes and rivers:    http://www.climatehotmap.org/global-warming-effects/lakes-and-rivers.html