Assessing Cumulative Impacts of Shoreline Development
U of MN
Human structures related to shoreline development, such as docks, boatlifts, and other structures, and disturbance from recreational activity may have a cumulative impact on aquatic ecosystems. Near-shore areas (less than 4 meters deep) often contain most of the vegetation and are generally the spawning area for fish. Few studies have addressed the effects of incremental changes on lake ecosystems despite ongoing concerns about the rate and extent of near-shore, in-water habitat alterations, and expansion of in-lake structures. The lack of scientific knowledge on the cumulative effects of human activities on aquatic habitat, water quality, and fish populations has hindered regulatory authorities and lake managers who need better information to guide landowners toward lower impact practices. To address this lack of information, we will assess the extent of near-shore vegetation, fish, and macroinvertebrates along a gradient of shoreline development and develop a framework to assess cumulative impacts on whole lake systems. We will use aerial photos and existing DNR data to measure whole lake disturbances of ~100 lakes in the Northern Lakes and Forests Ecoregion. We will also conduct assessments of a subset of lakes (~30) at the individual lot scale, to quantify impacts to vegetation, fish, and macroinvertebrates along a gradient of shoreline development and shoreline types. We will use our research develop a model to predict the cumulative impact of development on aquatic ecosystems, providing a tool to guide lake managers toward sustainable near-shore, in-water development.