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- For information on Wisconsin's natural communities, contact:
- Ryan O'Connor
Natural Heritage Inventory Assistant Ecologist
General natural community overview
Lake Michigan is among the largest and deepest freshwater lakes in the world. This massive waterbody covers 22,300 square miles and has 407 miles of coastline in Wisconsin. The lake is primarily cold water with summer maximum water temperatures below 22 degrees Celsius. Lake Michigan is relatively infertile, although it is warmer and more fertile than Lake Superior. Historically, the fish fauna consisted primarily of lake trout, ciscoes/whitefishes, and sculpins. Warmer and more fertile harbors and bays (e.g., Green Bay) had a more diverse assemblage of cool and warmwater fishes, especially in the Perch family. Invasion by the sea lamprey due to commercial alterations of the Great Lakes waterways led to the first large-scale disruption of the biotic community, greatly depleting the native lake trout population. By the 1970's, three cisco species were extinct, and three others extirpated from Lake Michigan. Only Lake Superior supports populations of two of these extirpated species, and only Lake Huron supports the third. Over-harvest and other factors caused a steep decline in the population of lake herring. Now the biota is dominated by introduced or invasive non-native species, including Pacific salmon and trout, alewife, rainbow smelt, ruffe, white perch, gobies, zebra mussel, and exotic zooplankton.
Species of Greatest Conservation Need
The following Species of Greatest Conservation Need are listed according to their level of association with the natural community type, based on the findings in Wisconsin's 2015 Wildlife Action Plan.
Scores: 3 = significantly associated, 2 = moderately associated, and 1 = minimally associated.
|A Hydroporus Diving Beetle||Heterosternuta pulchra||2|
|Hairy-necked Tiger Beetle||Cicindela hirticollis rhodensis||2|
|Caspian Tern||Hydroprogne caspia||3|
|Common Tern||Sterna hirundo||3|
|Common Goldeneye||Bucephala clangula||2|
|Black Tern||Chlidonias niger||1|
|Forster's Tern||Sterna forsteri||1|
|Great Egret||Ardea alba||1|
|Peregrine Falcon||Falco peregrinus||1|
|Purple Martin||Progne subis||1|
|Dragonflies and damselflies||Score|
|Alkali Bluet||Enallagma clausum||1|
|Painted Skimmer||Libellula semifasciata||1|
|Lake Sturgeon||Acipenser fulvescens||3|
|American Eel||Anguilla rostrata||1|
|Grasshoppers and allies||Score|
|Lake Huron Locust||Trimerotropis huroniana||2|
|Seaside Grasshopper||Trimerotropis maritima||2|
|Big Brown Bat||Eptesicus fuscus||2|
|Little Brown Bat||Myotis lucifugus||2|
|Silver-haired Bat||Lasionycteris noctivagans||2|
Please see Section 2. Approach and Methods of the Wildlife Action Plan to learn how this information was developed.
The following Ecological Landscapes have the best opportunities to manage for , based on the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin Handbook.
|Central Lake Michigan Coastal||Major|
|Northern Lake Michigan Coastal||Major|
|Southern Lake Michigan Coastal||Major|
Major (3 on map)
A major opportunity for sustaining the natural community in the Ecological Landscape exists, either because many significant occurrences of the natural community have been recorded in the landscape or major restoration activities are likely to be successful maintaining the community's composition, structure, and ecological function over a longer period of time.
Important (2 on map)
Although the natural community does not occur extensively or commonly in the Ecological Landscape, one to several occurrences do occur and are important in sustaining the community in the state. In some cases, important opportunities may exist because the natural community may be restricted to just one or a few Ecological Landscapes within the state and there may be a lack of opportunities elsewhere.
Present (1 on map)
The natural community occurs in the Ecological Landscape, but better management opportunities appear to exist in other parts of the state.
What are conservation actions?
Conservation actions respond to issues or threats, which adversely affect species of greatest conservation need (SGCN) or their habitats. Besides actions such as restoring wetlands or planting resilient tree species in northern communities, research, surveys and monitoring are also among conservation actions described in the WWAP because lack of information can threaten our ability to successfully preserve and care for natural resources.
Note: photos are provided to illustrate various examples of natural community types. A single photograph cannot represent the range of variability inherent in a given community type. Some of these photos explicitly illustrate unusual and distinctive community variants. The community photo galleries are a work in progress that we will expand and improve in the future.