Fall 2016 eNewsletter

2016 CILER Summit Series

This year CILER convened 90 experts from Great Lakes universities, NGOs, government agencies, and businesses to participate in three summits focused on identifying the most pressing research and management needs to achieve sustainability in the Great Lakes.  Each summit was centered on one of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory’s (GLERL’s) research programs – Ecosystem Dynamics, Integrated Physical and Ecological Modeling and Forecasting, and Observing Systems and Advanced Technology – and were designed to strengthen CILER’s mission of expanding NOAA’s research in the Great Lakes.  Summit participants were charged with summarizing the current state of knowledge and identifying priorities for the future during dynamic two-day meetings.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Lake Superior, near Munising, MI. October 9, 2011. Credit: NOAA.The first summit was titled “The Superior Challenge: Forecasting the Impacts of a Strong El Niño on the World’s Largest Lake”. Last winter was one the strongest El Niño events in modern history, leaving us with both new record-high air temperatures, and a unique opportunity to evaluate our ability to model and forecast extreme climatic events. Previous strong El Niño events have been associated with regime shifts in Lake Superior ice cover, water temperature, and evaporation, and resulted in a rapid and prolonged low water level period. The group identified research gaps “from physics to the fish” that limit our ability to understand and forecast large lake responses to climate cycles, such as El Niño, and ultimately to global climate change.

Cattails. Muskegon. September 1, 2010.The second summit focused on Ecosystem Services in the Great Lakes. The idea that ecosystems provide society with goods and services that are vital to human well‐being and prosperity has become prominent over the past decade as scientists, economists, resource managers, and politicians have considered how to properly value the natural capital of ecosystems. The concept of ecosystem services has simultaneously been used to promote sustainable use of water resources in the Great Lakes, which represent one of the world’s great ‘Blue Economies’. The group identified challenges and opportunities in quantifying ecosystem services in the Great Lakes, including the need for a comprehensive inventory of ecosystem services across the basin. A comprehensive inventory would lead to a greater appreciation of ecosystem services and potentially minimize misguided resource management decisions.

Buoy in western Lake Erie for harmful algal bloom monitoring and research, July 29, 2015. Credit: NOAA Great Lakes observing systems were the topic of the third summit. Observing systems around the Great Lakes provide real-time physical, chemical, and biological data that are used to predict weather, ice-cover, water levels, harmful algal blooms (HABs), and many other variables that are used by researchers, businesses, and the public to make decisions.  These observing systems range from in-lake instrumentation mounted on buoys, to remote sensing technologies that use satellite, airborne, and ship-based sensors.  Keeping observing systems up-to-date with the latest technology, and making sure they give stakeholders the information they need in real-time, is a continual challenge. Summit participants identified the data and technology needs to maximize Great Lakes observations, including the establishment of a standardized Great Lakes buoy system.

The summit groups are each in the process of formalizing their findings and consensus recommendations in journal articles and policy papers. Keep an eye out for updates in future newsletters and on the CILER website.

Funding for the CILER Summits was from the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment.