Lake Erie Ecosystem Change

Retrospective analysis of the causes and consequences of Lake Erie ecosystem change

Ruth Briland – PhD Graduate

We used an ecosystem-based approach to identify the major drivers of Lake Erie’s food web (phytoplankton, zooplankton, fish). We considered both external (e.g., meteorology, river inputs of water and nutrients) and internal (e.g., species interactions, physicochemical conditions and processes) drivers. We placed particular emphasis on understanding the impacts of recent increases in nutrient inputs and harmful algal blooms on fish communities through potentially reduced prey (zooplankton) availability and deteriorated water quality. We sought to use this understanding to enhance the ability of the Ohio Division of Wildlife to anticipate changes in the Lake Erie fisheries such that they can be maintained at self-sustainable levels and user-group expectations can be set at levels commensurate with the system’s ability to produce desired fish species.