An ecosystem health assessment of the Detroit River and western Lake Erie

Document Type


Publication Date




Publication Title

Journal of Great Lakes Research


The Canada-U.S. State of the Strait Conference is a biennial forum with a 22-year history of assessing ecosystem status and providing advice to improve research, monitoring, and management of the Detroit River and western Lake Erie. The 2019 conference focused on assessing ecosystem health based on 61 indicators. Although there has been considerable improvement in the Detroit River since the 1960s, much additional cleanup is needed to restore ecosystem health. Western Lake Erie is now at risk of crossing several potential tipping points caused by the interactions of a variety of drivers and their stresses. This assessment identified eight environmental and natural resource challenges: climate change; population growth/transportation expansion/land use changes; chemicals of concern; human health/environmental justice; aquatic invasive species; habitat loss/degradation; nonpoint source pollution; and eutrophication/harmful algal blooms. Specific recommendations for addressing each challenge were also made. Climate change is the most pressing environmental challenge of our time and considered a “threat multiplier” whereby warmer, wetter, and more extreme climatic conditions amplify other threats such as poor air quality effects on vulnerable residents, species changes, and nonpoint source runoff and combined sewer overflow events that contribute to eutrophication and can manifest as harmful algal blooms. Our assessment found that investments in monitoring and evaluation are insufficient and that the region's intellectual and environmental capital is not being leveraged sufficiently to address current challenges. Continued investment in this transnational network is essential to support ecosystembased management. (C) 2021 International Association for Great Lakes Research. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Link to Published Version