Great Lakes coastal fish habitat classification and assessment

Katya Kovalenko, Lucinda B. Johnson, Catherine M. Riseng, Matthew J. Cooper, Kristofer T Johnson, Lacey A. Mason, James E. McKenna, Beth L. Sparks-Jackson, Donald G. Uzarski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Basin-scale assessment of fish habitat in Great Lakes coastal ecosystems would increase our ability to prioritize fish habitat management and restoration actions. As a first step in this direction, we identified key habitat factors associated with highest probability of occurrence for several societally and ecologically important coastal fish species as well as community metrics, using data from the Great Lakes Aquatic Habitat Framework (GLAHF), Great Lakes Environmental Indicators (GLEI) and Coastal Wetland Monitoring Program (CWMP). Secondly, we assessed whether species-specific habitat was threatened by watershed-level anthropogenic stressors. In the southern Great Lakes, key habitat factors for determining presence/absence of several species of coastal fish were chlorophyll concentrations, turbidity, and wave height, whereas in the northern ecoprovince temperature was the major habitat driver for most of the species modeled. Habitat factors best explaining fish richness and diversity were bottom slope and chlorophyll a. These models could likely be further improved with addition of high-resolution submerged macrophyte complexity data which are currently unavailable at the basin-wide scale. Proportion of invasive species was correlated primarily with increasing maximum observed inorganic turbidity and chlorophyll a. We also demonstrate that preferred habitat for several coastal species and high-diversity areas overlap with areas of high watershed stress. Great Lakes coastal wetland fish are a large contributor to ecosystem services as well as commercial and recreational fishery harvest, and scalable basin-wide habitat models developed in this study may be useful for informing management actions targeting specific species or overall coastal fish biodiversity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1100-1109
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Great Lakes Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This modeling effort was funded by the Great Lakes Basin Fish Habitat Partnership (3003.8, USFWS-Coastal); the GLAHF project was funded by the Great Lakes Fishery Trust (22016.1678). Numerous people have contributed to that classification and mapping effort including D. Forsyth, K. Yeh. GLEI-I project was funded by grants from US Environmental Protection Agency Science to Achieve Results (STAR) and Great Lakes (EaGLe) program (R-8286750). This document has not been subjected to the Agency's required peer and policy review, and therefore does not necessarily reflect the views of the Agency and no official endorsement should be inferred. We also thank many dozens of field crews, crew leaders and co-PIs who collected GLEI and CWM fish data, in particular V. Brady, J. Ciborowski, J. Gathman. We are grateful to T. Brown and G. Host for developing the current stressor gradient. This manuscript benefited from discussions with GLNFHP co-PIs and contributors, including K. Wehrly, D. Infante, E. Rutherford, and L. Wang. Note that raw data and additional model details are available from the authors on request. This is publication number 625 of the Natural Resources Research Institute, University of Minnesota Duluth, and 101 of the CMU Institute for Great Lakes Research. We thank Associate Editor Dr. Anett Trebitz and three anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 International Association for Great Lakes Research


  • Anthropogenic threats
  • Coastal wetlands
  • Fish biodiversity models
  • Habitat variability
  • Invasive fish habitat models
  • Random Forests


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