After an absence of 40 years, mayfly nymphs of the genus Hexagenia were found in sediments of western Lake Erie of the Laurentian Great Lakes in 1993 and, by 1997, were abundant enough to meet a mayfly-density management goal (ca. 350 nymphs m-2) based on pollution-abatement programs. We sampled nymphs in western Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair, located upstream of western Lake Erie, to determine the importance of seasonal abundance and life-history characteristics of nymphs (e.g., emergence and recruitment) on density estimates relative to the mayfly-density management goal. Two types of density patterns were observed: (1) densities were relatively high in spring and gradually decreased through late summer (observed in Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair in 1997 and Lake St. Clair in 1999) and (2) densities were relatively high in spring, gradually decreased to mid summer, abruptly decreased in mid summer, and then increased between summer and late fall (Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair in 1998 and Lake Erie in 1999). Length-frequency distributions of nymphs and observations of adults indicate that the primary cause for the two density patterns was attributed to failed (first pattern) and successful (second pattern) reproduction and emergence of nymphs into adults in mid summer. Gradual declines in densities were attributed to mortality of nymphs. Our results indicate that caution should be used when evaluating progress of pollution-abatement programs based on mayfly densities because recruitment success is variable both between and within years. Additionally, the interpretation of progress toward management goals, relative to the restoration of Hexagenia populations in the Great Lakes and possibly other water bodies throughout the world, is influenced by the number of years in which consequtive collections are made.
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Changing abundance of Hexagenia mayfly nymphs in western Lake Erie of the Laurentian Great Lakes: Impediments to assessment of lake recovery?