The University Record, August 12, 2002

Changing climate impacts Great Lakes

By Mike Waring

Washington, D.C., Office
Dean Rosina Bierbaum

Global climate change requires new strategies for researchers who are working to better understand the Great Lakes, U-M School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE) Dean Rosina Bierbaum recently told a large gathering at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C.

Speaking to a crowd of nearly 150 congressional staffers, key government officials, and SNRE and other U-M graduates, Bierbaum said U-M would be looking at new research into Great Lakes concerns.

“Focusing research on understanding multiple stresses is something we need to pay more attention to,” Bierbaum said. “We need to understand the overlay and interaction of all ongoing environmental problems—habitat degradation, air and water pollution, invasive species, over-harvesting and, finally, climate change. This is the only way we can begin to develop sound management options today, even as we continue to develop new knowledge tomorrow.”

In her talk, Bierbaum recounted the environmental changes in the Great Lakes over the past century and outlined many of the research efforts begun on the Ann Arbor campus during that time. She also discussed a number of research initiatives now under way by U-M faculty, including work on salmon fisheries, sturgeon recovery, water purification and the role of marshes, future land-use change in the Muskegon watershed, and increases in Huron River runoff as climate changes and species and habitats shift.

Also appearing at the event was the Right Hon. Herb Gray, Canadian co-chair of the International Joint Commission (IJC). The IJC deals with water and environmental issues between Canada and the United States. Gray told the audience how the IJC works to avoid international conflicts along the border and discussed recent IJC activity on such issues as diverting water from the Great Lakes for other uses.

“The amount of water in the Great Lakes is finite, and the amount of water removed has caused terrible environmental problems for both countries,” Gray said. “We recommended that legislation be passed to prevent bulk water removal either by tanker or pipeline.”

Bierbaum and Gray stressed the close working relationship between U-M and Canada on these issues.

“Canada and the University of Michigan have been central to identifying and solving the environmental issues for almost a century,” Bierbaum said, noting that the Great Lakes hold 20 percent of all the world’s fresh water. “And we deserve continued attention, because the entire Chesapeake Bay would fit into Saginaw Bay.”

Following the discussion, a reception was held in the Canada Room at the embassy, one of Washington’s most prestigious locations. The U-M Washington, D.C., Office coordinated the event.

For more details on Dean Bierbaum’s remarks, contact her at rbierbau@umich.edu.u You can also find out more about Great Lakes issues at www.snre.umich.edu or www.miseagrant.org.