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Hydrological, morphometrical, and biological characteristics of the connecting rivers of the International Great Lakes: a review

Canadian Special Publication of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
By: , and 
Edited by: D.P. Dodge

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Abstract

The connecting channels of the Great Lakes are large rivers (1, 200-9, 900 m3 • s-1) with limited tributary drainage systems and relatively stable hydrology (about 2:1 ration of maximum to minimum flow). The rivers, from headwaters to outlet, are the St. Marys, St. Clair, Detroit, Niagara, and St. Lawrence. They share several characteristics with certain other large rivers: the fish stocks that historically congregated for spawning or feeding have been overfished, extensive channel modification have been made, and they have been used as a repository for domestic and industrial wastes and for hydroelectric energy generation. Levels of phosphorus, chlorophyll a, and particulate organic matter increase 3- to 5-fold from the St. Marys River to the St. Lawrence River. Biological communities dependent on nutrients in the water column, such as phytoplankton, periphyton, and zooplankton similarly increase progressively downstream through the system. The standing crop of emergent macrophytes is similar in all of the rivers, reflecting the relatively large nutrient pools in the sediments and atmosphere. Consequently, emergent macrophytes are an important source of organic matter (67% of total primary production) in the nutrient poor waters of the St. Marys River, whereas phytoplankton production dominates (76%) in the enriched St. Lawrence River. Submersed and emergent macrophytes and the associated periphyton are major producers of organic matter in the connecting channels. Another major source of organic matter (measured as ash free dry weight, AFDW) in the Detroit River is sewage, introduced at a rate of 26, 000 t per year. The production of benthos ranges from a low 5.4 g AFDW•m-2 in the Detroit River to a high of 15.5 g AFDW•m-2 in the St. Marys River. The rivers lack the organic transport from riparian sources upstream but receive large amounts of high quality phytoplankton and zooplankton from the Great Lakes.

Additional publication details

Publication type Book
Publication Subtype Conference publication
Title Hydrological, morphometrical, and biological characteristics of the connecting rivers of the International Great Lakes: a review
Series title Canadian Special Publication of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
Year Published 1989
Language English
Publisher Canadian Special Publication of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
Contributing office(s) Great Lakes Science Center, National Wetlands Research Center
Description 25 p.
Larger Work Title Proceedings of the International Large River Symposium
First page 240
Last page 264
Conference Title Proceedings of the International Large River Symposium
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