Conservation and Management
Great Lakes aquatic beds are threatened by shoreline development and its associated run-off (e.g., residential, commercial, agricultural, and roads), recreational overuse (e.g., powerboats), and habitat alteration in the adjacent landscape (e.g., pollution run-off, oil spills, and increased impervious surfaces within the watershed). In addition, alteration to the natural hydrology (e.g., dredging of bay inlets for boat access, reduction in water lake level fluctuation from downstream dam) and reduction in water quality (e.g., siltation, turbidity, septic/nutrient run-off) are threats to these aquatic beds. Great Lakes aquatic beds are threatened by the spread of non-native invasive species, such as Eurasian milfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum), European frog’s bit (Hydrocharis morsus-ranae), water chestnut (Trapa natans), curly pondweed (Potamogeton crispus), and zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha). There is the potential threat that the use of herbicides to control exotic plants may affect non-target native species.
Conservation Strategies and Management Practices
Where practical, establish and maintain bay shoreline buffer to reduce storm-water, pollution, and nutrient run-off, while simultaneously capturing sediments before they reach the aquatic bed. Buffer width should take into account the erodibility of the surrounding soils, slope steepness, and current land use. If possible, minimize the number and size of impervious surfaces in the surrounding landscape. Avoid habitat alteration within the lake and surrounding landscape. For example, roads should not be routed through the buffer area. Prevent the spread of invasive exotic species into the lake through appropriate direct management, and by minimizing potential dispersal corridors. Great Lakes aquatic beds would likely benefit from actions included in Lakewide Action and Management Plans (or LAMPs) for Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. These plans include actions to assess, restore, protect and monitor the ecosystem health of each Great Lake in New York State.
Development and Mitigation Considerations
When considering road construction and other development activities, minimize actions that will change what water carries and how water travels to Great Lake bays with aquatic beds, both on the surface and underground. Water traveling over-the-ground as run-off usually carries an abundance of silt, clay, and other particulates during (and often after) a construction project. While still suspended in the water, these particulates make it difficult for aquatic animals to find food; after settling to the bottom of the lake, these particulates bury small plants and animals and alter the natural functions of the community in many other ways. Thus, road construction and development activities near Great Lake bays should strive to minimize particulate-laden run-off into this community. Water traveling on the ground or seeping through the ground also carries dissolved minerals and chemicals. Road salt, for example, is becoming an increasing problem both to natural communities and as a contaminant in household wells. Fertilizers, detergents, and other chemicals that increase the nutrient levels in Great Lake bays cause algae blooms and eventually an oxygen-depleted environment where few animals can live. Herbicides and pesticides often travel far from where they are applied and have lasting effects on the quality of the natural community. So, road construction and other development activities should strive to consider: 1. how water moves through the ground, 2. the types of dissolved substances these development activities may release, and 3. how to minimize the potential for these dissolved substances to reach this natural community.
Resurvey known occurrences and survey for occurrences statewide to advance documentation of the current stucture, composition, and condition of Great Lakes aquatic beds. A statewide review of the barrier bays of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie is desirable. Continue searching for aquatic beds in good condition (A- to AB-ranked). Review and incorporate data on occurrences in NY gathered by the International Joint Commission’s (IJC) Great Lakes- St. Lawrence Adaptive Management (GLAM) Committee. Confirm if this community is present in Lake Champlain and determine its extent down the St. Lawrence River.
Need research on how Great Lakes aquatic beds change over time in response to fluctuating water levels in Lake Ontario. Further research is needed at additional sites as a follow-up to Zhu et al. (2007) on the impacts of invasive aquatic plants and non-native mussels to aquatic beds.
- Apalone spinifera (Spiny Softshell)
- Etheostoma exile (Iowa Darter)
- Notropis heterodon (Blackchin Shiner)