High-resolution assessment and visualization of environmental stressors in the Lake Superior basin

George E Host, Terry N Brown, Tom P. Hollenhorst, Lucinda B Johnson, Jan J H Ciborowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Scopus citations


Quantifying gradients of anthropogenic stress can inform the development of sample designs, provide an important covariate in modeling relationships of response variables, identify reference and highly-disturbed sites, and provide a baseline and guidance to restoration and remediation efforts. We describe development of SumRel, a composite index of anthropogenic stress, for the U.S. and Canadian Lake Superior basin. Key elements of the project include development of high-resolution watersheds throughout the basin, summarization of the major point and non-point stressors within these watersheds, and creation of tools for scaling the watersheds and stressor summaries. SumRel was calculated at two spatial scales: for high resolution subcatchments within the Lake Superior basin (mean watershed area = 93 ha) and for coastal watersheds of Lake Superior. An assessment of subcatchments within Minnesota's St. Louis River watershed showed a correlation between the degree of disturbance, as indicated by SumRel, and impaired water quality, as evidenced by in-stream conductivity. These data and tools allow identification and visualization of reference and highly-disturbed sites at multiple spatial scales, providing decision support for individual agency and binational monitoring, assessment and restoration initiatives across the Lake Superior basin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)376-385
Number of pages10
JournalAquatic Ecosystem Health and Management
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2011


  • ArcHydro
  • Great Lakes
  • anthropogenic stressors
  • environmental indicators
  • watersheds

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