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Project Details

Managing the Impacts of Multiple Stressors in Saginaw Bay

Project Status: This project began in January 2007 and was completed in December 2012

Along with several partner agencies and institutions, we are funding NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory to improve the health of Saginaw Bay and to restore the ecosystem services that are vital to local residents. The objective of our five-year study has been to determine the effects of multiple stressors (e.g. invasive species, changing land-use patterns, climate change) on this coastal system.

Why We Care

Like many coastal areas around the world, Saginaw Bay in Lake Huron has been affected by a wide range of human activities. The combined effects of these multiple stressors have compromised the health of the bay and resulted in the loss of many valuable ecosystem features and services. Stressors on the bay include toxic contaminants, nutrients, sediments, overfishing, exotic species, and declining water levels. Management agencies and citizen groups need to determine how to address and remedy these multiple effects comprehensively.

What We Are Doing

Our research is identifying how the bay’s stressors interact and influence the local fisheries and water quality. The data have allowed us to develop several “what if” models that can provide useful management options. By entering various alternative management scenarios, such as reducing phosphorus, scientists can view the likely outcome of that action. Models and field studies are used interactively through an adaptive integrative framework (AIF). This framework uses input from state agency managers, researchers, and modelers, including both ecological data and socioeconomic analyses, to drive modeling approaches and management actions. The AIF includes management involvement and public support and preferences for management practices. The economic analysis is integrated into the fish community dynamics, water quality, and human health models.

An important component of the AIF is the partnership with local stakeholder groups and state agencies (Michigan Departments of Natural Resources and Environmental Quality). The partnership fosters the public’s understanding of the goals and challenges involved in effectively managing Saginaw Bay. In turn, research is enriched and guided by local knowledge and deeper insight of the ecosystem services that residents consider most important.

The multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional project team is led by Dr. Craig Stow of the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory with co-investigatiors from the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, University of Akron, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Natural Resources, Western Michigan University, Limno-Tech, Inc., and Oregon Sea Grant.

Regions of Study: Great Lakes, Michigan

Primary Contacts: Craig Stow, Elizabeth Turner

Research Theme: Science for Coastal Ecosystem Management 

Related NCCOS Center: CSCOR

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