Conserving critical habitat in the face of climate change in Midwestern lakes by managing watershed land use

by Lori Fligge, University of Minnesota
July 27, 2022

Lakes across the Midwest are losing cold, oxygenated habitat as a result of climate change and nutrient pollution. This loss of critical habitat has negative consequences for water quality, fish, and the production of greenhouse gases. While data show that effectively managing watershed land use at a local scale can protect coldwater, oxygen-rich habitats and reduce nutrient pollution in Midwestern lakes, lake-specific targets for watershed management are lacking. In a University of Minnesota study published in Ecosphere, researchers used statistical models to estimate the resilience of over 10,000 lakes in the upper Midwest to both climate change and land use in order to identify temperature and watershed conditions above which critical habitat was lost. For lakes in which watershed land use was predicted to influence coldwater habitat, the researchers identified lake-specific thresholds for protecting or restoring forested watersheds. They also estimated the uncertainty in how individual lakes would respond to both climate and land use change.

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