New tool launched for aquatic invasive species surveillance in the Great Lakes

Recently, Blue Accounting, in partnership with state and federal agencies, launched a new suite of web-based resources and tools to support early detection of aquatic invasive species in the Great Lakes. The earlier new aquatic invasive species are detected, the easier and less expensive it is to avoid potentially devastating consequences of a large invasion. The new tools released by the Blue Accounting initiative help target efforts to focus on high-risk species and locations across the 11,000 miles of shoreline and 94,000 miles of surface area that make up the Great Lakes basin.

Through the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, the U.S. and Canada made a binational commitment to develop an early detection and rapid response initiative for aquatic invasive species. Great Lakes state agencies, led by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, secured Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding to begin that process for U.S. waters and Canada is following closely behind.

The Blue Accounting website hosts the interactive, GIS-based tool which allows users to explore the data behind risk calculations for locations across the basin and will make it easier to keep the framework current with new data. Using Blue Accounting’s site prioritization tool, decision-makers can understand how local conditions contribute to varying levels of risk for fish, invertebrate and plant invasion at different sites around the Lakes. This big-picture view will help them decide how to allocate resources to the sites with the greatest likelihood of new invasions.

“Michigan shares these Lakes with seven states and two provinces and we have to work together to protect them from aquatic invasive species,” said Jon W. Allan, Director of the Michigan Office of the Great Lakes. “The surveillance framework is helping us take the mountain of data and information we have about invasive species and conditions along our coastline and transform it into insights we can use to inform decisions. The collaborative process used to develop this framework provides a solid foundation for successful implementation across the region.”

“We hope the site prioritization tools provide surveillance teams with a standardized method to assess invasion risk across the basin, ensure the highest risk sites are being monitored and provide the agencies with the means to track progress,” said Lindsay Chadderton, Aquatic Invasive Species Director with The Nature Conservancy and lead for the Blue Accounting aquatic invasive species effort.

Supporting aquatic invasive species management is just one focus of Blue Accounting. Other focus areas include coastal wetlands, maritime transportation, phosphorus control and source water protection. You can find information on all the issues at www.blueaccounting.org.

Andrea Lee