LEMN Workshop 3.03: "Changing Water Level Regimes: Developing Long-Term Research and Implementation Strategies for the Huron-Erie/Lake St. Clair Corridor" was a binational workshop that was held at the Large Lakes Research Laboratory, Grosse Ile, Michigan from October 17th to 18th, 2005.
There is increasing recognition that aquatic habitats are created and maintained by dynamic interactions among environmental, hydrological, geological, and biological processes. Strategies for long-term habitat protection and restoration depend on understanding these dynamics and the environmental factors that control them. This is the third of 3 workshops focused on the Huron-Erie/St. Clair system.
The goal of this workshop was to bring together physical scientists (geologists, hydrologists, engineers), fishery biologists, aquatic ecologists, and resource managers to discuss a range of “transitional habitat” issues associated with anticipated changing water-level regimes in the HEC. The location of transitional habitats shifts through time in response to changing abiotic conditions. Physical and biological models can be used to predict the location, distribution, and persistence of these transitional habitats and may permit us to infer the extent of dominant climate-driven change processes - displacement and/or fragmentation - and the critical climate-related thresholds likely to cause them.
Integrating these analyses with anthropogenic factors could identify existing and potential future stressors within a global warming context.
This workshop builds on the results from our February and April 2005 workshops. Participants were asked to contribute to the development of a long-term plan/strategy to implement system-wide assessment of HEC aquatic and fish habitats that will reflect the dynamic effects of anthropogenic or climate-induced changes in water-level regime.
In addition, the workshop assessed the potential of using existing physical and biological models to better understand the dynamic linkages between the processes that create, maintain, and regulate habitat structure in order to predict the most likely future locations of high-quality fish habitat. The workshop culminated in the development of a long-term research and implementation strategy to identify the best candidate areas for protection and restoration in the HEC system and ways to build research/management project teams that can directly implement those strategies.
Day 1 ended with round-table discussion on refining a conceptual model of habitat succession, i.e. “step-stone” or transitional habitats and refugia (Saxon, 2003). Workshop participants reached consensus on the key parameters to be considered when defining transitional habitats. Groups also assessed how anthropogenic stressors affect such habitat succession within a changing water-level regime context. On Day 2, workshop participants identifed key elements of a long-term research strategy for:
a) integrating existing or new models that predict the distribution of future critical aquatic habitats and assess the effects of long-term stressors, such as climate and/or human-driven changes in water-level regime on habitat;
b) compiling the data needed to apply HEC habitat models that could predict shoreline change and relocation of the associated coastal, littoral, and sub-littoral habitats in response to various climate-induced water level change scenarios.