The abundance of coastal wetlands around Georgian Bay and Lake Huron are the source of so much life in this area - these highly productive ecosystems support a vast diversity of freshwater species and are key to a healthy environment. With more than 8,000 km of shoreline on Georgian Bay, and 3,700 aquatic marshes in eastern and northern Georgian Bay alone, these areas provide a thriving habitat for fish, insects, birds, waterfowl, amphibians and reptiles, and a variety of other land-based wildlife, as well as numerous aquatic and coastal plant species. The Great Lakes as a whole support more than 3,500 different species, approximately 80% of which rely upon Georgian Bay’s coastal wetlands.
Why We Protect Wetlands
Hundreds living creatures and organisms depend on coastal wetlands for a variety of activities essential to life and survival, including spawning, nurseries, food and foraging, shade, shelter, cooler temperatures, and refuge from predators.
When the wetlands change due to major and sustained changes in water levels, contaminants, agricultural development, urbanization, or invasion by non-native species, so does the diversity and composition of the native ecosystems and all the species they contain.
The entire system is delicately balanced, and it does not take much to upset that fine balance. Wetlands are highly vulnerable to extremes, such as variations in temperature, precipitation, and evaporation. If water temperatures or pollutant levels rise, for instance, or if marshes turn into dry meadows, they can no longer support the same biodiversity. In many instances, the changes are both transformative and permanent.
Threats to Wetland Ecosystems
Unfortunately, most wetlands in the Great Lakes have already been lost or degraded due to human disturbance. More than 50% of wetlands in Lakes Michigan, Erie and Ontario have been negatively affected. But in Lakes Superior and Huron, including Georgian Bay, over 70% have been minimally impacted. Although Georgian Bay’s wetlands experienced some loss in surface area between 1986 and 2010, they remain in prosperous condition, and are the least human-disturbed wetlands in the Great Lakes region.
Let’s keep it that way!