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The Great Lakes - Test 2 Readings

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Western University
Geography 2011A/B
Wendy Dickinson

GREAT LAKE READINGS Renegotiation of Great Lakes  2009 Canada-Us great lakes water quality agreement (GLWQA) modernize it to meet new challenges  1972 agreement made largely met requirements, very successful o DDT and mercury declined o Reduce algae producing phosphorous inputs o Improve sewage treatment and phosphate detergent bands  Capacity of governments to enforce regulations decline  Rising doubt about governments willingness and ability to fulfill their promises  Commitments set forth slow, only 3 areas removed from list of hot spots over two decades  Great lakes face a new set of concerns, new toxic chemicals o Include fire retardants, plasticize, pharmaceuticals and personal care products o Risk to fish, wildlife and people  Non-native species are threatening to offset the balance o Invasive species ahs created a biological desert in Lake Erie where there is a botulism outbreak in fish and birds o Local areas around the lake have outbreaks of near-shore algae blooms or stinking algae o 2/3 were considered suitable form swimming o Elevated infant mortality and increased cancer risk for people who live in select areas of US around great lakes  Climate change  Water cycle: evaporates  water vapour rises until it hits cooler air  condenses to form clouds  returns to earth Why did we fall So Far Behind?  Decline in accountability  1987 governments discontinue monitoring and assessment roles replace by reports from less independent US Environmental protection agency and environment Canada  Environment slip on both countries’ political agendas (ex. NAFTA more important)  Personal working on environmental science dropped  1972 drive for cleaning up the great lakes came from Canada  US take the lead on shared environmental initiatives o Commitments on great lake include: protecting and restoring the natural heritage, taking aggressive approach to toxic substances and adopting zero-tolerance policy toward invasive species o Obama 2010 budget put lots of money towards cleaning up water systems Water Levels The Great Lakes  Lake Erie water levels rose damaging homes, spring Lake Erie water levels drop so not deep enough to dock boats  Most changes in water levels are natural, but some are the result of human activities  Lake superior (largest of 5 great lakes) drains into Huron through St Mary’s River  Lake Michigan drains into Lake Huron through Straits of Mackinac o Straits so wide and deep water levels in lakes Michigan and Huron are the same  Lake Huron flows into Lake Erie by St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair and Detroit River  Lake Ontario through Welland Canal and Niagara river  empty into St. Lawrence river  into gulf of St. Lawrence and Atlantic ocean  Great Lakes part of a complex system of lakes including provinces of Ontario and 8 American states Natural Factors Short Term Changes  Water levels rise or fall b/c of wind = short term, rarely last longer than a day  Ex. Wind Set Up or Surge: strong winds blow over a lake in one direction for several hours, push the water levels up at one end and levels drop at the other end o Seiche: wind stops blowing or changes direction, water flows back and forth until it stabilizes  Ice jam connects one of the lakes to another may reduce the flow of water to a trickle  Strong winds, currents and waves jammed ice into the eastern end of Lake Erie between Fort Erie and Buffalo blocking the flow of water into the Niagara river Seasonal Changes  Great Lakes are lowest in the late fall and early winter  Water surface warmer than the air  water evaporates rapidly  water leaves lakes  water levels decline  Spring  snow melts  water runs into lakes  water surface cooler than the air  less evaporation  water levels rise Long Term Changes  Result of heavier or lighter than normal levels of precipitation o Ex. low water levels 1960s followed a # of years of below normal snow and rain fall o Ex. heavy rains and snow 197s and 1980s raised the water levels  Land in the north and east rise more rapidly than the land in the south west o Ex. thunder bay rises, Chicago does not move o Water level on one side rises and falls on the other side of moving land  Earth’s natural climate system is  stable but getting warmer o Supplies of water to the lakes may drop dramatically Human Factors Dredging  Ships grew larger, dredge the rivers meet their new depth requirements o Ex. St. Clair and Detroit river dredged many times result water levels on Lakes Huron and Michigan dropped Diversions  3 main areas where water is diverted  Divisions raised lake superior’s and Ontario’s water level, reduced Lake Michigan’s, Erie’s and Huron’s 1. Ogoki and long lac diversions, north of lake superior taken from the Hudson bay  Drive hydro-electric power plants on rivers feeding Lake Superior  Results increase water flows into Lake Superior 2. Chicago  Water supply, sewage, disposal and commercial navigation purposes  Removed from Lake Michigan then sent through Chicago sanitary and ship canal to Mississippi river into gulf of Mexico 3. Welland Canal – connects Lakes Erie and Ontario  For shipping and generating electricity  Water from Lake Erie into lake Ontario Using Water and Not Returning It  Consumptive Use: practice of taking and using water from lakes or rivers, but not returning it  115 cubic metres lost form Great Lakes due to consumptive use   as population on Canadian side rises  Regulate a lake means to adjust or change the amount of water which flows out and into the next lake  Rules set out by international joint commission (IJC) established by Canadian and American governments  Flow of water controlled at two points: o Lake Superior to lake Huron at Sault Ste. Marie o Lake Ontario through the St. Lawrence river at Cornwall Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River  1950s St. Lawrence meets Lake Ontario commercial shipping and hydro-electric plants st A Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement for the 21 Century  1969 Cuyahoga River fire brought awareness to great lakes  1972 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement ensure US and Canada were both taking action to control pollution o Advance scientific research and monitoring the water quality of the great lakes o Point source pollution from phosphorous loading by large sewage treatment plants to PCBs and mercury form industrial out falls  2011 Lake Erie had its worst harmful algal bloom o Intense rainfall events and presence of invasive zebra mussel  2012 agreement revamped o Asian carp making there way up Mississippi river into Chicago area water ways o Lake levels low in Lakes Huron and Michigan o Issues of the past still linger o Retained annexes: areas of concern, discharges from vessels, lake wide management, chemicals of mutual concern, nutrients o New Annexes: climate changes impacts, aquatic invasive species, habitat and native species, science, groundwater o Annexe: area of focus  2013 federal funding committed year-to-year funding may be unreliable or insufficient  IJC play an important role in enforcing the agreement  Most important issues facing the region: o Chemical and bioaccumulation that is occurring due to thousands of unregulated sources o Nutrients, the policy of voluntary regulation is not working o Invasives destroying ecosystem and local economies o Climate change and the science that is needed to understand the short and long term impacts Feature Lake Erie: A Late Great lake?  Dead zone – zebra mussels, quagga mussels and other organisms laced with harmful bacteria, sucks so much oxygen from the bottom water that nothing else can live there  No evidence here on the shore that the dead zone exists  1999 enormous kill of birds and fish washed up on the beaches o Loons with toxins lost ability to hold up their heads and drowned o Now recurs every year  When you die replaced by billions and billions of living microbes which is happening to Lake Erie  Dead zone occupying 1/3 of central basin of the lake  This area is not really dead, things there are not the things we want there: bacteria and decomposing organisms  Lake Erie lower layer blocked form the atmosphere and thus cut off from oxygen  Western basin is too shallow and eastern basin deep not present so much of a problem  Central basin plankton dies, sings and in rotting uses up what little oxygen is left  Most life cannot survive in these conditions, but zebra and quagga mussels can  Mucus and feces production of deadly gases in which toxic organisms such as botulinum a spore forming bacterium causes botulism can thrive  Dead one clear in late September bottom of the lake warms up and the stratification disappears Great Lakes Blueprint  Steady decline in the environmental quality  Polluted by industrial and commercial waste, municipal sewage, surface runoff from cities and rural areas  Once thriving and diverse ecosystem now habitat destroyed or degraded and many species lost or displaced  Populations of native plant and animal species are on the decline  Threatened by an increase in the number and quantity of toxic chemicals o Wetlands lost b/c agricultural and urban development o Water levels are dropping across the great lakes and st. Lawrence river o Further loss of wetlands and exposure of contaminated sites on the lake bed  180 Invasive species have become established in the lakes arrived in ballast water releases from large ships o Native fish decline in major parts of the great lake  Worst offenders are the Canadian cities of Toronto, Hamilton and Windsor  Pollutants to the air linked to smog, acid rain, respiratory illnesses and damage to children’s development  Pollutants from facilities in US have decreased, Canada increased  Urban development destroying habitat and dramatically adding to environmental stresses  Decreasing water levels in Lake Huron, Michigan and superior well below normal  Addressing phosphorus loading in Lake Erie (For example, mercury released previous accomplishments are fading  Lacks a strong commitment by Canadian governments, US growing momentum o US has proceeded on its own to set the agenda for the great lakes o Canada and Ontario lacking a strong commitment and strong initiatives  Further delay will result in far more serious damage to the health of the great lakes ecosystem and greatly increase the cost of addressing these issues in the future  Great lakes blueprint details 8 key priorities for protecting the great lakes and St. Lawrence river 1. Improve Governance  Weak governance by bi-national institutions, poor coordination among levels of government and lack of financial support  Re-establish Government Leadership o Leadership must come from ever level of government, it must come first from the Prime Minister and President o First Nations of the great lakes and St. Lawrence river need to be involved  Coordinate Government Efforts o Bi-national institutions strengthen commitments and improve public awareness  Increase and Sustain Funding o 2 billion dollars annually is required as baseline to ensure progress is made to protect and restore the great lakes o Funding will have to be increased 2. Enable Effective Public Participation  Increase Transparency o Public need access to all info on great lakes and efforts to restore and protect the ecosystem o Transparency and accessibility  Encourage Participation o Actively engage the public in decision making and encourage government accountability o Need to engage the public in the planning process  Improve Education o Public education o Public attitudes toward the great lakes and st. Lawrence river and how people view the lakes within their daily lives will impact on how readily they will change their behaviour 3. Connect Water Quality and Quantity  Conserve Water o Water conservation is critical directly reduce the energy required to treat and transport water o Creating conservation plans tangible targets and timetables to transform  Protect Source Water o Source water protection preventive method of protecting local health and reducing the costs associated with water-borne illnesses o Elimination of toxic substances and addressing climate change crucial 4. Practice Ecosystem- based Stewardship  Ecosystem includes all humans, animals, plants that live within the basin, soil, air and water  Be Ecosystem and Basin-Wide in Scope and Must Include the St. Lawrence River o Watershed cross political and physical boundaries o IJC recommended US and Canada ecosystem approach be incorporated into GLWQA  Incorporate Adaptive Management and Follow the Precautionary Principle o If an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures must be taken even if some cause- and effect relationships are not fully established o Applied to: assessing and managing toxic chemicals, habitat protection, restoring water levels, protection from invasive species, impacts of climate change o Will always be knowledge gaps involves continuous monitoring and adjustment of decisions as new knowledge becomes available  Emphasize Species’ Habitat Health as Part of Ecosystem-Based Planning o Habitats to thousands of wildlife species o Survival of these species depend on great lake o Threats to great lakes and St. Lawrence river ecosystem can lead to significant loss in species and habitats o Attention and resources are required to ensure that threats that lead to species and habitat decline are eliminated 5. Eliminate Pollution  Pollutants are being released into the air, water and land  Many pollutants are considered toxic under the Canadian environmental protection act (CEPA)  Linked to health effects: cancer, respiratory illnesses, reproductive, n
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