NASA-funded Workshop on “Planning for the Future of Great Lakes Coastal Ecosystems” held at Michigan Tech Research Institute

Originally published: 
November, 2019

Workshop co-organized by SEAS brought together unique group of researchers, managers, and planners to accelerate problem solving

In early November, SEAS professor Bill Currie co-organized a workshop on “Planning for the Future of Great Lakes Coastal Ecosystems.”  The main goal of the full-day workshop was to bring researchers on coastal ecosystems together with professional land managers, decision-makers, and regional planners.  Participants brainstormed ways that researchers could produce results to better inform the needs of practitioners who manage or work to protect and restore coastal ecosystems, including wetlands that occur along coastlines, in embayments, and along rivers.  Held in Ann Arbor, the workshop drew 25 participants from Minnesota to New York, including those from The Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the Nature Conservancy, and the Southeastern Michigan Council of Governments.  This was a very unusual combination of researchers, managers, and planners, providing the type of integration and applied problem-solving that is the hallmark of SEAS.

As the full-day workshop progressed, some topics arose repeatedly.  Concerns about the future of coastal wetlands included the effects of land use change or intensification, such as agricultural and urban runoff and its effects on water quality; invasive plant species in wetlands; the role of wetlands in providing resilience against flooding to coastal communities; and the shifting of wetlands landward, or disappearance of large areas of wetlands, as Great Lakes water levels have risen in recent years.  Managers and planners stressed that they have a strong need for spatial information that represents where coastal ecosystems are most in need of protection and most likely to benefit from restoration activity.  Scientists and practitioners working together agreed that spatial maps of ecosystem services provided by wetlands, both now and in projected future scenarios of change, are likely to be an important means of providing scientific information to be used by planners.  

This workshop was funded by the NASA Interdisciplinary Science program as part of a larger research project to understand linkages among land use, climate change, and the future ecology of coastal wetlands throughout the Great Lakes basin.  The workshop was organized by Dr. Laura Bourgeau-Chavez and Charlotte Weinstein at Michigan Tech Research Institute, Dr. Sherry Martin at Michigan State University, and Prof. Bill Currie at SEAS.