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Wetland Monitoring on the Horizon for Great Lakes Adaptive Management

IJC admin | 2016/03/17

By IJC staff

 

Adaptive management is nothing new. Canada and the United States have asked the IJC to evaluate fluctuations in levels and flows in the Great Lakes periodically over the last half century.

In early 2015, the IJC formed the Great Lakes Adaptive Management (GLAM) Committee. The goal is to assist the St. Lawrence River, Lake Superior, and Niagara boards of control to evaluate the long-term effects of water regulation plans and the resulting effect of fluctuating water levels and flows on socio-economic interests and the environment.

In its first year, the GLAM Committee has been busy. It established a work plan to track progress on determining measurements, metrics and indicators to evaluate the effectiveness of current and proposed plans; set up management and reporting schedules; and developed a communications and engagement strategy to help explain the purpose and goals of GLAM. The committee also is in the process of developing a network of relevant organizations and individuals who can contribute to these goals.

This month (March 2016), the GLAM Committee is kicking off its Wetland Habitat Monitoring project, part of the International Watersheds Initiative, with a two-day workshop for scientists and experts who will be designing and validating the model which will be used to benchmark wetland health indicators, as well as those collecting data in the field. When complete, this project will allow experts to more accurately determine the effects of various water regulation plans on meadow marsh performance indicators.

Wetland monitoring. Credit: Environment Canada
Wetland monitoring. Credit: Environment Canada

Adaptive management is a structured, iterative process for continually improving management by learning from the outcomes of previous policies and practices. In other words, adaptive management is applying knowledge gained from experience.

The GLAM Committee will embark on five more projects this year:

  • Creating a statistical model to reconcile discrepancies between model- and measurement-based estimates of the Great Lakes water balance

  • Developing a regulation and routing model to replace the current Coordinated Great Lakes Regulation and Routing Model, which is outdated and cumbersome to use

  • Monitoring 16 Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River coastal wetlands to allow a lake-wide, binational assessment of wetland status

  • Creating a high-resolution map of coastal wetland vegetation to support the development of a nearshore management framework for the Lake Ontario Lakewide Action and Management Plan
  • Updating the computer code associated with environmental Performance Indicators   for the lower St. Lawrence River, known as the Integrated Ecosystem Response Model 2D.

Together, these activities will give the GLAM Committee a better perspective of current conditions in and around the Great Lakes and provide members with tools to assess where there may be room for improvement in current regulation practices. As more is learned and conditions change over time, this information will help the three control boards that the GLAM Committee supports to determine whether changes to regulation plans should be considered.

The Great Lakes Adaptive Management Committee stands ready to maintain the data and knowledge gained through the International Upper Great Lakes Study, the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Study as well as Great Lakes reference studies in 1993, 1986 and 1964.

A satellite image of Lake Ontario taken Feb. 22, 2016. Credit: NOAA/MODIS
A satellite image of Lake Ontario taken Feb. 22, 2016. Credit: NOAA/MODIS

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