Lake Superior truly is a great body of water. It is larger by volume than all the other Great Lakes combined, representing an astonishing 10 per cent of the world’s entire surface freshwater. It is home to some of the last remaining healthy populations of lake trout in the Great Lakes and is the only one of these lakes to still have any kind of true coastal wilderness. It’s also the healthiest and most pristine of the lot, says Dan Kraus, Weston conservation scientist at the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), one of the organizations that helped develop the Lake Superior Biodiversity Conservation Strategy.
While it may seem counterintuitive to launch a conservation strategy for a relatively healthy lake, Mr. Kraus says that when it comes to protecting such an important resource, it’s better to be proactive. “It’s less expensive and easier to conserve the lake and services it provides us than to clean it up at some later date,” he says.
Superior does face many threats, including development pressures and the inadvertent transportation of invasive plant species like phragmites (common reed), which has choked off vast areas of wetlands in other parts of the Great Lakes system.
NCC and more than 25 other groups are countering these threats with the biodiversity strategy, which includes actions to protect Lake Superior and restore its associated habitats where they have been lost. Part of the strategy is to inform the public and policy-makers about the importance of maintaining Lake Superior in its present state and preventing the further spread of invasive plant species.
Conservation actions in the plan include conserving key coastal areas and islands that have many rare species and important habitats, and, in Ontario, supporting the newly established Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area, the largest freshwater protected area in the world.
Recent property acquisitions by NCC in Lake Superior include Wilson Island, home to peregrine falcons, and the Powder Islands, a stop-over habitat for migrating waterfowl where shallow waters also provide spawning habitat for lake trout and whitefish. As with most NCC acquisitions, these properties are open to public access for low-impact recreational use.
“Lake Superior is unique in the world and we have a special responsibility as stewards of one of the planet’s greatest freshwater resources to manage it for future generations,” says Mr. Kraus. “By taking some fairly simple and cost-effective steps now we can maintain it as a clean and healthy ecosystem for the future.”