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Web based watershed atlas for fishes of the Great Lakes
Marcia S. Meixler1, Nickolas E. Mandrak2, Robert L. McLaughlin3
1 14 College Farm Road, Department of Ecology, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08901
2 Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, Fishes and Oceans Canada, 867 Lakeshore Road, Burlington, Ontario, L7R 4A6
3 Department of Integrative Biology, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1
Fishes are probably the most important biological indicators of ecosystem health in the Great Lakes basin. Understanding changes in fish distributions over time and the processes responsible for these changes is essential to understanding and successfully managing Great Lakes aquatic ecosystems. A comprehensive standardized, georeferenced fish distribution database had been developed for the Great Lakes basin and its tributaries; however, at the start of this project these data were not available to the public via the web. The goals of this project were: 1) to update the fish distribution database; and, 2) to create a web-based, searchable watershed atlas of Great Lakes fishes. The distribution database has been made available through the Fish Migration and Passage Knowledgebase (FishMaP Online, http://fishmap.uoguelph.ca/). Users, such as state and federal agency resource managers, non-profit conservation directors, academic researchers and the lay public, are now able to choose a species and see an interactive GIS distribution map for that species over the entire Great Lakes basin. They can also access a host of other information such as: conservation listing, species rarity in faunal region, extent of use of running-water environments, adult/juvenile habitat preferences, migratory behavior, barrier passage information, and availability of swimming and performance measurements. Coverage includes tributary watersheds in the United States and Canada and the Great Lakes proper. By clicking individual watersheds, users can access source information for each species and watershed. Additionally, users can download fish distribution shapefiles (for GIS), kmls (for Google Earth) and jpg images for their personal use. The development of a Great Lakes fishes web-based watershed atlas is important for the creation of sound management strategies to evaluate, conserve and protect Great Lakes ecosystems. Sample applications include mapping biodiversity, threatened and endangered species, invasive species, fish distribution as related to habitat or impairments, and more.