Potential effects of climate change on inland glacial lakes and implications for lake-dependent biota in Wisconsin: final report April 2013

Environmental and Economic Research and Development Program
By: , and 


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The economic vitality and quality of life of many northern Wisconsin communities is closely associated with the ecological condition of the abundant water resources in the region. Climate change models predict warmer temperatures, changes to precipitation patterns, and increased evapotranspiration in the Great Lakes region. Recently (1950-2006), many regions of Wisconsin have experienced warming, and precipitation has generally increased except in far northern Wisconsin. Modeling conducted by the University of Wisconsin Nelson Environmental Institute Center for Climate Research predicts an increase in annual temperature by the middle of the 21st century of approximately 6° F statewide, and an increase in precipitation of 1”–2”. However, summer precipitation in the northern part of the state is expected to be less and winter precipitation will be greater. By the end of the 21st century, the magnitude of changes in temperature and precipitation are expected to intensify. Such climatic changes have altered, and would further alter hydrological, chemical, and physical properties of inland lakes. Lake-dependent wildlife sensitive to changes in water quality, are particularly susceptible to lake quality-associated habitat changes and are likely to suffer restrictions to current breeding distributions under some climate change scenarios. We have selected the common loon (Gavia immer) to serve as a sentinel lake-dependent piscivorous species to be used in the development of a template for linking primary lake-dependent biota endpoints (e.g., decline in productivity and/or breeding range contraction) to important lake quality indicators. In the current project, we evaluate how changes in freshwater habitat quality (specifically lake clarity) may impact common loon lake occupancy in Wisconsin under detailed climate-change scenarios. In addition, we employ simple land-use/land cover and habitat scenarios to illustrate the potential interaction of climate and land-use/land cover effects. The methods employed here provide a template for studies where integration of physical and biotic models is used to project future conditions under various climate and land use change scenarios. Findings presented here project the future conditions of lakes and loons within an important watershed in northern Wisconsin – of importance to water resource managers and state citizens alike.

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Publication type Report
Publication Subtype State or Local Government Series
Title Potential effects of climate change on inland glacial lakes and implications for lake-dependent biota in Wisconsin: final report April 2013
Year Published 2013
Language English
Publisher Focus on Energy
Contributing office(s) Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center
Description x, 166 p.
Country United States
State Wisconsin
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