Delisting AOCs: Behind the Scenes Research in the Great Lakes

Admittedly, I sat in on this session not knowing what to expect mainly because I knew absolutely nothing about degraded benthos and plankton communities. Here’s what I’ve learned so far…

  • Benthos refers to a group of organisms that live on, in or near lake beds;
  • Plankton refers to organisms that live in the water column and are unable to swim against the current. They also provide a crucial food source to larger organisms, like fish.
  • Both serve as great bioindicators.

However, USGS hydrologist, Amanda Bell, explains that there is currently no consistent way to measure whether benthos and plankton communities in Great Lakes AOCs are improving due to restoration work – until now. USGS is comparing data from four AOCs and six non-AOCs in Wisconsin. They are looking to answer important questions such as:

  • Is there a significant difference in the plankton (and benthos) communities between each AOC and the non-AOCs?
  • Which species, present or absent, are indicative of systems that are NOT considered “degraded” anymore?

While we wait for the results of Amanda’s work that will eventually contribute to the process of delisting AOCs in the Great Lakes, we must be mindful that important research like hers cannot happen without federal funding for Great Lakes restoration. Researchers across the region continue to rely on federal dollars. Shrinking the available pool of funds only limits and slows down the progress we can make to achieve a healthy future for the Great Lakes.

Freshwater Copepod

Freshwater copepod – a small crustacean that lives in nearly every freshwater habitat. Some species are benthic, some planktonic. Photo courtesy of Manual Crank on flickr

Guest blogger:
Frances Canonizado
Outreach Manager
Alliance for the Great Lakes

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