Troubled waters on the Great Lakes

A.M. Michalak


The Great Lakes that straddle the border of Canada and the United States hold one-fifth of Earth’s surface fresh water. Over that last two centuries, a series of massive engineering projects were undertaken to make the Great Lakes more accessible to seagoing ships and to reroute sewage away from water supplies. These changes have led to the “invasion” of the Great Lakes by a variety of non-native species that have dramatically altered the lake system and devastated native fish populations. This piece reviews a new book by journalist Dan Egan, The Death and Life of the Great Lakes, that surveys the history of invasive species in the Great Lakes, as well as confounding pressures such as nutrient inflows, changes to lake water levels, and climate change.

Figure: The Great Lakes on the US–Canadian border are under intense pressure. (Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC)

Michalak, A.M. (2017) "Troubled waters on the Great Lakes", Nature, 543 (7646), 488–489, doi:10.1038/543488a.