Despite the extensive urbanization of its watershed, the Detroit River still supports diverse fish and wildlife populations. Conflicting uses of the river for waste disposal, water withdrawals, shipping, recreation, and fishing require innovative management. Chemicals added by man to the Detroit River have adversely affected the health and habitats of the river's plants and animals. In 1985, as part of an Upper Great Lakes Connecting Channels Study sponsored by Environment Canada and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, researchers exposed healthy bacteria, plankton, benthic macroinvertebrates, fish, and birds to Detroit River sediments and sediment porewater. Negative impacts included genetic mutations in bacteria; death of macroinvertebrates; accumulation of contaminants in insects, clams, fish, and ducks; and tumor formation in fish. Field surveys showed areas of the river bottom that were otherwise suitable for habitation by a variety of plants and animals were contaminated with chlorinated hydrocarbons and heavy metals and occupied only by pollution-tolerant worms. Destruction of shoreline wetlands and disposal of sewage and toxic substances in the Detroit River have reduced habitat and conflict with basic biological processes, including the sustained production of fish and wildlife. Current regulations do not adequately control pollution loadings. However, remedial actions are being formulated by the U.S. and Canada to restore degraded benthic habitats and eliminate discharges of toxic contaminants into the Detroit River.
Additional publication details
The Detroit River: Effects of contaminants and human activities on aquatic plants and animals and their habitats