The Detroit River’s water quality and wildlife habitats have improved dramatically in the last 35 years, but more work needs to be done, according to a study released this week.
“We have this unbelievable ecological recovery that is one of the most dramatic in North America,” said John Hartig, the U.S. co-chairman of State of the Strait, a three-year study involving more than 75 scientists.
John Gannon, a senior scientist with the International Joint Commission in Windsor, said Wednesday that a number of Detroit River species are making a comeback.
Mr. Gannon said lake whitefish were the most sought-after commercial fish in the early 1800s, but ceased spawning in the Detroit River because of pollution and habitat destruction. In 2006, for the first time in 90 years, the river had its first documented successful spawning of lake whitefish.
Lake sturgeon, the largest fish in the Great Lakes, are also back spawning in the Detroit River. The report said lake sturgeon didn’t spawn from the 1970s to 1999, but by 2001 scientists had the first documented report of the sturgeon spawning again in the Detroit River.
Bald eagles and peregrine falcons suffered from egg shell thinning caused by DDT and disappeared from the river area, but both species are back, Mr. Gannon said.
He said the condition of the river is “a lot better than people think.” The study has both good news and bad, but Mr. Gannon said overall he’d give the Detroit River a B- for its improved condition.
Mr. Hartig said there’s been a 90 per cent drop in phosphorous loading from municipal sewage plants and a 99 per cent drop in oil discharges in the river in the last 35 years. With Detroit’s heavy industrial output during the Second World War came the dumping of oil into the river, which killed flocks of ducks, Mr. Hartig said.
The study found some “deteriorating conditions.” They include habitat loss and exotic species. Mr. Gannon said climate change is also a concern. Warmer temperatures may allow even more exotic species to survive here. Less ice cover and more evaporation could mean lower water levels which would dry up the few remaining wetlands on the river, he said.
The scientists say there’s still work to be done and more research and monitoring is needed.
“There has been tremendous improvements but we still need to be vigilant.”
…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, Alexander Neil, after a December 6, 2007 article by Sharon Hill in The Windsor Star