Lake Erie

Lake Erie (pronounced eerie) has over the years lived up to its name.
The lake, the fourth largest of the five Great Lakes, has for decades been the dumping ground of eerie pollutants.

Thanks to environmental regulation on both the US and Canadian sides of the lake, water quality has vastly improved since the 1970s.

But the lake area is still laden with heavy industry and sewage treatment plants, and the lake continues to receive large amounts of run-off from the region's agricultural areas.

Dead zones - oxygen-deprived areas where fish can't survive - still occur when excess fertilizer and untreated sewage seep into the waters. 
 / ©: Frank Parhizgar / WWF-Canada
Not all is always peaceful under the calm waters of the Great Lakes. Lake Ontario, Canada.
© Frank Parhizgar / WWF-Canada

Other eerie problems

 / ©: USGS
Zebra mussel.
© USGS
Another problem facing Lake Erie are invasive species - species that invade and become established in areas where they do not normally occur. In Lake Erie, that would be Zebra mussels.
In less than two decades, these voracious filter-feeding organisms, accidentally introduced from eastern European lakes, have all but wiped out the native mussel species. Millions of dollars are spent each year in attempting to control these small but numerous mollusks.

The Great Lakes and climate change

Scientist predict that global warming will lead to a steep drop in water levels of Lake Erie in the coming decades, a change that could cause the lake's surface area to shrink by up to 15%.

Should climate change manage to alter the physical or chemical characteristics of the Great Lakes, an overall loss in biodiversity would result because many endemic species would be incapable of adapting to the changing conditions.

Find out from a WWF climate witness about changing climate in the Great Lakes.

Great Lakes Facts & Figures

    • At 25,700km2, Lake Erie is the 11th largest lake in the world (by water surface area), and the fourth largest of the Great Lakes.
    • The Great Lakes - Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario - are the largest surface freshwater system on the Earth. They contain about 84% of North America's surface fresh water and about 21% of the world's supply.
    • Only the polar ice caps contain more fresh water than the Great Lakes.

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