Sunset at Lake Superior Provincial Park, ON (Photo by Ethan Meleg)

Sunset at Lake Superior Provincial Park, ON (Photo by Ethan Meleg)

A conservation assessment for Lake Superior

Waves crash on the northwestern Lake Superior Coast, Ontario (Photo by John Anderson)

Waves crash on the northwestern Lake Superior Coast, Ontario (Photo by John Anderson)

There is an almost unfathomable amount of freshwater in Lake Superior. With more water than all the other Great Lakes combined and 10 per cent of all the Earth’s surface freshwater, its volume could cover our entire continent under one foot of water.

It is also a lake of extraordinary biodiversity. The deep waters, fog-shrouded islands and isolated coasts harbour endemic and disjunct fishes, unique varieties of lake trout, places of refuge for arctic-alpine plants, threatened woodland caribou and the last great areas of true wilderness remaining on the Great Lakes.

Threats

Although several large protected areas have been established and much of the Lake Superior basin and coast is undeveloped, many coastal areas, particularly in the U.S., are in private ownership and facing increasing development pressures. Many watersheds have high housing and road density as a result of urban areas, second homes and forestry. This can result in habitat loss and declining water quality. 

In addition, dams have reduced access to river habitats for some migratory fishes, and some contaminants have persisted in the aquatic environment because of Lake Superior’s cold waters and slow growth rate of fishes. Other key issues include aquatic invasive species, mining and climate change

Despite these challenges, Lake Superior remains the most pristine of all the Great Lakes and provides an unparalleled global opportunity for bi-national conservation and maintaining biological reference sites in the world’s largest freshwater ecosystem.

Lake Superior coastal wetland, Ontario (Photo by NCC)

Lake Superior coastal wetland, Ontario (Photo by NCC)

A conservation assessment for Lake Superior

Through funding from Environment Canada, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) has just completed the Biodiversity Conservation Assessment for Lake Superior. Through two volumes, this report chronicles the state of biodiversity and issues facing Lake Superior lakewide and regionally. The U.S. and Canadian governments will be using this information to develop a bi-national biodiversity conservation strategy, completing the series of strategies for the Great Lakes that NCC has been leading over the last five years.

This project provides a summary of the health and threats to the biodiversity of Lake Superior, and is intended to provide a starting-point to develop effective lakewide and place-based conservation strategies.

Partners in conservation

This project engaged more than 400 experts from around the Lake Superior basin, including provincial, state and federal governments, university scientists and First Nations.
 
Learn more about Lake Superior and the project >

 

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