Home > Explore Data & Reports > Green Bay, Lake Michigan: A proving ground for Great Lakes restoration


Klump, J.V., J. Bratton, K. Fermanich, P. Forsythe, H.J. Harris, R.W. Howe, and J.L. Kaster. 2018. Green Bay, Lake Michigan: A proving ground for Great Lakes restoration. Journal of Great Lakes Research, 44(5):825-828. doi:10.1016/j.jglr.2018.08.002

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Green Bay has sometimes been referred to as the largest freshwater “estuary” in the world. Its watershed, much of it in intensive agriculture, comprises one-third of the Lake Michigan basin and delivers one-third of the lake's total phosphorus load. At one time, the major tributary, the Fox River, was considered the most heavily industrialized river in North America, primarily from paper manufacturing. Deterioration in water quality and the loss of beneficial and ecological uses have been extensive and began well back into the last century. More recently, the bay has also become a test case for our resolve to remediate and restore ecosystems throughout the Great Lakes and elsewhere. Green Bay has stimulated a significant amount of widely relevant research on the fate and behavior of toxics, biogeochemistry, habitat, biodiversity, and ecological processes. The bay represents a true “proving ground” for adaptive restoration. Key findings of the recent summit on the Ecological and Socio-Economic Tradeoffs of Restoration in the Green Bay Ecosystem are summarized here. Foremost among recommendations of the workshop was the creation of a “Green Bay Ecosystem Simulation and Data Consortium” serving as a data clearing house, building upon the significant progress to date, and developing a modeling framework and visualization tools, furthering public outreach efforts, and ensuring a sustained growth in scientific expertise. Funding was estimated to be on the order of ~$15–20M over the next ~5 years – a modest investment relative to the value of the ecosystem and the long-term cost of inaction.

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