Climate Change Impacts on Great Lakes Fishes

Climate Change Impacts on Great Lakes Fishes

Additional Investigators
Konrad Dabrowski
Yellow Perch (photo credit:

We have a vested interest in understanding how climate change and other human-driven stressors will influence the world’s aquatic ecosystems. This page provides some resources that can help to better understand the impact of climate change on the fish populations of the North American Great Lakes, as well as the fisheries that they support.  

We appreciate your interest! Reach out to us with any questions.

Latest Resources -- Meet the Team -- Press -- Funding Sources

Latest Resources

"Short winters threaten fish populations"
Reductions in winter duration under climate change may have negative consequences for ectotherms (“cold-blooded” organisms) adapted to specific seasonal temperature regimes. Here, we show that short, warm winters reduce reproductive success for yellow perch, resulting in altered timing of spawning, low embryo hatch rates, and small larvae. These effects help, in part, explain poor recruitment of yellow perch in Lake Erie’s recreational and commercial fisheries.

"Climate Change Effects on Lake Erie Yellow Perch Reproduction and Recruitment" 
Troy Farmer's PhD dissertation discusses the effect of climate change on Yellow Perch in Lake Erie through the lens of a more comprehensive historical analysis than what is described in the Nature Communications publication. For his dissertation, Farmer included invasive species, spawning stock size, ice cover, changes in the Lake Erie nutrient regime, and climate change as factors in a historical analysis of yellow perch recruitment success. He also outlines both experimental and modeling approaches used to explain potential patterns in reproductive success following short and long winters. Farmer's PhD work provided the foundation for the Nature Communications publication, noted above. 

"Winter Warming Effects on Yellow Perch Reproduction and Recruitment"
This Great Lakes Fishery Commission completion report goes a step further than the Nature Communications publication (link above) by describing more intimiate details of the experiment as well as future climate modeling in light of the relationship between winter duration and yellow perch reproductive success. A full text version is available here: GLFC Completion Report - Farmer et al 2013.pdf

"Climate Change Impacts on Great Lakes Fishes" webinar
This Ohio Sea Grant webinar, featuring Stu Ludsin, highlights the expected impacts of climate change on Great Lakes fish communities, how interactions between climate change and other human-caused stressors may drive unanticipated change in Great Lakes fish production, and information gaps that will improve our ability to forecast the response of fish communities to climate change.

IJC Report.pdf 
Chapter of the April 2013 IJC Science Advisory Board "Taking Action on Lake Erie" Work Group Science Summary Report
In this International Joint Commission Report chapter, we discuss four primary ways by which climate change might interact with the delivery of nutrients and sediments from the watershed to influence the fish community of Lake Erie. Specifically, we expect climate-driven water warming and increased precipitation during winter and spring to promote development of bottom hypoxic (“dead”) zones, reduce water clarity, exacerbate harmful algal blooms, and alter invertebrate prey assemblages at the base of the food web. Each of these changes is expected to have a negative effect on Lake Erie fishes that are intolerant of eutrophic conditions (e.g., low water clarity and dissolved oxygen levels) when considered independently. However, these mechanisms have not been fully explored in the Lake Erie ecosystem, and understanding of their potential interactive effects with each and additional anthropogenic stressors (e.g., invasive dreissenid mussels) is lacking.

People, Climate Change, and Lake Erie
This four-year NSF-funded project is a partnership effort among six departments within the Ohio State University and Case Western Reserve University. The project is exploring how human behavior influences environmental conditions and ecosystem services in Lake Erie. Researchers are also examining how the lake's condition impacts human views of the lake and land management decisions in the watershed.

Meet the Team

Troy Farmer

Troy Farmer
Postdoctoral Fellow
Auburn University

Libby Marschall 
Ohio State University

Konrad Dabrowski

Konrad Dabrowski 
Ohio State University

Stu Ludsin

Stuart Ludsin 
Associate Professor
Ohio State University


July 2015

August 2015

September 2015

Funding Sources

Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife Logo

Ohio Department of Natural Resources - Division of Wildlife

Sport Fish Restoration Logo

Sport Fish Restoration Program

Great Lakes Fishery Commission Logo

Great Lakes Fishery Commission

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