Samples were collected at 40 stations in western Lake Erie in 1961 to determine the species composition, distribution, and abundance of macrobenthonic organisms and to document changes since 1930, when a similar survey was made. The fauna in 1961 was composed principally of Oligochaeta, Tendipedidae (7 genera), Sphaeriidae (15 species), and Gastropoda (at least 8 species). Stations with a high density of Oligochaeta were near the principal sources of pollution (Maumee, Raisin, and Detroit rivers). Stations with fewer Oligochaeta and a more diverse fauna were farthest from the river mouths. The population density of the burrowing mayfly, Hexagenia spp., was reduced from an average of 139/m2 in 1930 to less than 1/m2 in 1961. Organisms more abundant near the sources of pollution than in other areas were, in addition to Oligochaeta: the midge, Procladius; the fingernail clam, Sphaerium transversum; and the snail, Valvata sincera (sens. lat.). Organisms sensitive to pollution, such as amphipods, mayfly nymphs, caddisfly larvae, and naiad clams, were scarce and usually at the more lakeward stations. The most important changes in fauna during the 31-year period were: ninefold increase in Oligochaeta; fourfold increase in Tendipedidae; twofold increase in Sphaeriidae; sixfold increase in Gastropoda; and a reduction of Hexagenia to less than 1% of former abundance. The area of pollution (as judged from the abundance of Oligochaeta) increased from 263 km2 in 1930 to 1,020 km2 in 1961.
Additional publication details
Changes in the bottom fauna of western Lake Erie from 1930 to 1961