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Michigan Fisheries: 200 Years of Changes

Now available in print or PDF

A four part series on the history of Michigan fish,  featured in HRWC’s newsletter over the last two years, has been compiled into one document and is now available digitally and in print form. It is great for students, fishermen, history buffs, and everyone interested in fish and aquatic ecology.

“Michigan boasts 11,00 lakes, 36,000 miles of streams and rivers, and is surrounded by the largest system of freshwater lakes on Earth. Over the past two hundred years, European settlers and their descendants have done much to alter these natural systems and the creatures that inhabit them.
 
This special report examines how humans changed fish diversity and abundance in Michigan since 1830 through greed, stewardship, ignorance, and intention.”
This 1930's fisheries scientist surveys a habitat improvement project. Credit: Institute for Fisheries Research

This 1930′s fisheries scientist surveys a habitat improvement project. Credit: Institute for Fisheries Research

 

You can get the PDF version here.

 

If you would like a printed version, please email Paul at psteen@hrwc.org.  The printed version will not be mailed but will be available at the HRWC office for pickup.  Supply is limited!

Paul Steen

Paul works on the Adopt-a-Stream Program and is program manager for Michigan's MiCorps program, a statewide volunteer water monitoring network. He really likes aquatic insects, fish, stream ecology, natural history, and trying to make the HRWC website more legible.

Email: psteen@hrwc.org

Latest posts by Paul Steen (see all)

The Inaugural Michigan Inland Lakes Convention

Partnering to Protect Michigan’s Inland Lakes

MILP logo cropped sm

May 1-3, 2014, Boyne Mountain

The Michigan Inland Lakes Partnership is pleased to announce that registration is open for the inaugural Michigan Inland Lakes Convention, May 1-3 at Boyne Mountain Resort in Boyne Falls. Register by March 1 to take advantage of the Early Bird discount!

Bill Rustem, Director of Strategy for Governor Rick Snyder, will join us for a plenary address on Friday morning, May 2. Mr. Rustem will focus on the conference theme of partnerships, with his address “Successful Partnerships – Importance to Government”. Prior to his current position in the Governor’s office, Mr. Rustem was an owner of Public Sector Consultants (PSC) and was the firm’s president and CEO. While at PSC, Mr. Rustem directed studies on the status of Michigan cities, wastewater treatment needs, recycling, and land use. Before joining the firm, Mr. Rustem was Gov. William G. Milliken’s chief staff advisor on environmental matters and director of the Governor’s Policy Council.

The Convention presents an opportunity for lake enthusiasts, lake professionals, researchers, local government officials and anyone else interested in protecting our water resources to participate in three days of educational presentations and discussion, in-depth workshops, tours, exhibits and much more focused on Michigan’s 11,000 inland lakes.

The 2014 Michigan Inland Lakes Convention is brought to you by the Michigan Inland Lakes Partnership, launched in 2008 to promote collaboration to advance stewardship of Michigan’s inland lakes. The Convention is a cooperative effort between many public and private organizations including the Michigan Chapter of the North American Lake Management Society, Michigan Lake and Stream Associations, Inc., Michigan State University Extension, Michigan Natural Shoreline Partnership, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and the Michigan State University Institute of Water Research.

Visit the Michigan Inland Lakes Partnership website at http://michiganlakes.msue.msu.edu to register. Questions about the Convention can be directed to Dr. Jo Latimore, MSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, at latimor1@msu.edu or 517-432-1491.

Paul Steen

Paul works on the Adopt-a-Stream Program and is program manager for Michigan's MiCorps program, a statewide volunteer water monitoring network. He really likes aquatic insects, fish, stream ecology, natural history, and trying to make the HRWC website more legible.

Email: psteen@hrwc.org

Latest posts by Paul Steen (see all)

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Fall Creek Monitoring: Beautiful colors and beautiful bugs

River and creek sampling

South Ore Creek at Bauer Road is shallow creek flowing through wetlands and forests.

South Ore Creek at Bauer Road is shallow creek flowing through wetlands and forests. credit: David Amamoto

Thanks to 137 volunteers who contributed a total of 548 volunteer hours, the 2013 Fall River Roundup was a great success!  Our volunteers split into 25 teams and traveled to 50 different creek and river locations across the Huron River Watershed to assess the aquatic benthic macroinvertebrate community.

This study is one of the most effective ways that HRWC has to keep its finger on the pulse of the stream. From the data collected from this semi-annual event, we get a better understanding of which creeks and rivers are getting better, which are getting worse, and how we can direct our management activities.

You can see all the results in Fall 2013 River Roundup Report.

Current Watershed Health

In a nutshell, the health of the watershed as judged by our macroinvertebrate sampling is holding steady. Of the 62 sites that we monitor to judge this, 30 sites have had no statistically significant changes over time, and 6 sites are too new to make this judgment.

12 sites are declining, and these include locations on Chilson Creek, Davis Creek, east branch of Fleming Creek, Norton Creek, and South Ore Creek.  The majority of the declining sites are in Livingston County.  Eight of the declining sites are in Livingston, two are in Washtenaw, and three are in Oakland.

14 sites are significantly improving.  11 of improving sites are in Washtenaw County, including Boyden Creek, Horseshoe Creek, the main and west branches of Fleming Creek, Huron Creek, the Huron River in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, and several places on Mill Creek. 2 sites are improving in Livingston County (Horseshoe Creek at Merrill Road and Mann Creek at Van Amberg Road), and 1 site is improving in Wayne County (Woods Creek at the Lower Huron Metropark).

 

Highlights

1. For many years HRWC has held up Millers Creek in Ann Arbor as an example of what can happen to an urban creek- the stream flow is flashy, the channel is incised, the riparian vegetation is shrubby invasive plants, and there is little life in the creek.  In 2009 HRWC finished up a green infrastructure project in the headwaters of Millers designed to reduce the amount of stormwater rushing into the creek, and at the same time the City of Ann Arbor finished a major streambank stabilization project where the creek crossed Glazier Way.

The efforts spent restoring Millers Creek seems to be paying off.  The sample taken in Millers Creek at Glazier Way contained the most insect families ever seen since sampling began in 1993. While the overall trend since 1993 is unchanged, from 2004 when the creek was at its worst (3 insect families), until now in 2013 (12 insect families), there is a statistically significant increase.  Insects that are particularly susceptible to pollution and disturbance have yet to be found here however, and we will continue monitoring in hopes that these insects will make their way back to the stream.

Fall sampling results for Millers Creek @ Glazier Way over the past 20 years.

Fall sampling results for Millers Creek @ Glazier Way over the past 20 years.

 

2. Starting in this past January, HRWC has been sending volunteers to two new stream sites on Portage Creek near Stockbridge.  This is a long drive from Ann Arbor and we appreciate the volunteers who have made this journey. This Roundup, volunteers in the Portage Creek at Rockwell site found a treasure trove of insect diversity.  Twenty insect families were found which puts this new site up there with the very best places we go.  We will look forward to visiting this site again in the future!

Portage Creek @ Beckwith Nature Preserve... a new sampling site!

Portage Creek @ Beckwith Nature Preserve… a new sampling site! Picture taken January 2013.

 

Lowlight

Norton Creek @ West Maple Road looks like it has nice habitat, but the water quality is very poor.

Norton Creek @ West Maple Road looks like it has nice habitat, but the water quality is very poor. credit: Ron Fadoir

Norton creekshed in Oakland County is a Detroit suburb and industrial hub. Historically, the creek has suffered from numerous impairments and has seen little improvement as the area has become increasingly suburbanized.

In terms of the macroinvertebrate community, samples taken here have always had terrible diversity and low abundance, but in recent years things have gotten worse.  When sampling started in Norton Creek at West Maple Road in 2000, it was normal to find between 8 and 10 insect families.  However, volunteers during the past four fall River Roundups have found 3, 4, 4, and 3 insect families.  Two of the insect families found are actually water striders, which are only semi-aquatic as they live on top of the rather than in the water.

These poor samples have made Norton Creek the worst location of all of those that HRWC monitors. For more information on Norton Creek, see our Norton Creek page and associated creekshed report.  http://www.hrwc.org/norton

 

What’s next?

On January 26th, HRWC staff and volunteers will gather for the 19th annual Stonefly Search.  This event is very similar to a River Roundup except that we are only looking for stoneflies.  Some of these little guys can be found year round, but there are a couple of stonefly families that are only reliably found in the winter months, and they are great indicators of healthy water.   We hope you and your family and friends will join us for this fun outdoor event!  Register here! http://www.hrwc.org/volunteer/stonefly/

Now Showing: Portaging Argo Dam

 

Portaging Argo Dam is a bit of a challenge.  Do you float the cascades, or walk your watercraft around them and the dam?

 

This video, developed for the Huron River Water Trail, will give the proper directions for your trip! And hopefully it will make you laugh a little bit too. Make sure your sound is on!

 

The Huron River Water Trail website contains many useful trip planning tools to guide you on your next paddling excursion. The website include online maps, a store to purchase the waterproof  Paddler’s Companion, tips on river safety and trail etiquette, real-time river flows, fishing updates, and suggested itineraries.

More creekshed reports available!

creeksheds

What creekshed do you live in? Check out our interactive creekshed map! 

 

As reported last September,  HRWC is compiling all of our data on a creekshed scale, looking specifically at our creeks and the land that affects them.  We are synthesizing all of our knowledge on these creeksheds and putting them into easily digestible and colorful 4 page reports.

There are now seven creekshed reports available, including the Woods Creek report, which was just finished.

Woods Creek, located near Belleville, is the healthiest lower Huron River tributary.  There are several ordinances protecting the creek and there are many invested citizens who live in the watershed, including the Woods Creek Friends.

Creekshed Reports:

 

 

 

Dealing with high water during macroinvertebrate sampling

2012 04 20 RU by John Lloyd (21)

Diane Martin braves the fast flowing water… and wisely wears a life jacket! credit: John Lloyd

A wet and wild spring

On April 20, teams of HRWC volunteers poured from our office and explored the Huron Watershed in search of aquatic insects, snails, clams, and crustaceans. The data that these volunteers collect enables HRWC to keep a finger on the pulse of the Huron River and it’s tributaries; to understand where streams are degrading and where they are getting better.

This year’s event was marked by very high water, just like our Spring Roundup in 2011. And just like in 2011, data interpretation has been difficult.  The data collected from a River Roundup are meant to show overall conditions across the watershed and be comparable to past year’s data in order to tell us how things are changing over time.  In flooded conditions, the stream systems are not comparable to past years, often because the volunteers are forced to sample in an unusual manner (like standing on the bank and reaching into the swollen river rather than entering it).

QAPPs are useful- yes, seriously!

HRWC follows a quality assurance project plan (QAPP) to make sure that we deal with the issue of bad samples in a consistent manner.

FlemingCk_6593LookingDownstr_20Apr13_640

Fleming Creek along Galpin Road had overtopped the banks and flooded the neighboring yards. The team was not able to sample here and moved on to a different location. credit: Dick Chase

From the QAPP:

“The resulting measures of Total Insect Taxa for each site will be compared to the median from the site’s whole data record and there should be a relative percent difference of less than 40%.  The same comparison will be made for Total Abundance (for all taxa).

Sample results that exceed these standards will be noted as “outliers” and examined to determine if the results are likely due to sampling error or a true environmental variation.  If sampling error is determined or if the environmental variation is not reflective of normal conditions (ie extreme flooding), the data point shall be removed from the data record.”

13 samples were removed from the official data record for failing to meet these requirements. The rejected samples had on average total abundances 50% less than the median of past results, and coincidentally 50% less insect diversity than the median of past results. (We would expect these two numbers to be related but it is strange that they are exactly the same).

2 samples were at new sites where past data didn’t exist to test results against the QAPP

South Ore Creek flows fast and high! credit: John Lloyd

South Ore Creek flows fast and high! credit: John Lloyd

requirements, but volunteer descriptions make it plain that the sites could not be sampled properly. These samples were also rejected.

27 samples were accepted. For all accepted samples, total abundance was down 20%, and insect diversity was only down 14% from the median of past results. This amount of variation is normal even in unflooded conditions.

You can see all the results in the Spring 2013 River Roundup Report.

Current Watershed Health

In a nutshell, the health of the watershed as judged by our macroinvertebrate sampling is holding steady. Of the 59 sites that we monitor to judge this, 28 sites have had no statistically significant changes over time, and 6 sites are too new to make this judgment.

13 sites are declining, and these include locations on Chilson Creek, Davis Creek, east branch of Fleming Creek, the Huron River at Flat Rock, Norton Creek, and South Ore Creek.  It should be pointed out, as it was after the 2012 Fall Roundup, that the majority (though not all) of the declining sites are in Livingston County.

12 sites are improving, including Boyden Creek, Horseshoe Creek, the main and west branches of Fleming Creek,  Huron Creek, the Huron River in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, and several places on Mill Creek. The majority (though not all) of the improving sites are in Washtenaw County.

What’s next?

The rejected samples aren’t thrown away.  They are placed into a separate database and flagged with the reason for their exclusion.  Such data may prove useful in the future- for example, quantifying the effect of high flows on macroinvertebrate populations… as a way at getting at how climate change could be changing our watershed.

Let’s hope for a drier fall- but if it is wet and flooded again- we know how to deal with it!

 

 

Lake homeowners: You need to watch for incoming exotic plants, or else!

For those who own houses on lakes, or who spend any amount of time on them, being able to boat and swim in clean water is of paramount importance. Nothing will ruin your enjoyment and reduce the value of  your property faster than  the encroachment of invasive aquatic plants.  They clog motors, they ruin beaches, and they smell when rotting in massive quantities.

If your lake is still free from these plants then you should seriously consider doing all you can do keep it that way, and the best way to do so is to monitor your lake for the plants. If you expect someone else to do it for you, expect to be disappointed; it is highly likely that no one cares about your lake more than you do.

The Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program offers the Exotic Plant Watch program at the cost of only $25 a year. If you enroll, you will be trained to find and identify four common invasive aquatic plants: European Milfoil, hydrilla, curly-leaf pondweed, and starry stonewort. It will then be up to you and your neighbors to monitor your lake, though the program staff will give advice and can confirm your plant identifications.

If you don’t find any plants, that’s great! But if you do, the best way to stop their spread is to act quickly, before the plants become widespread.  It is relatively simple to treat and remove a small amount of invasive plants; it is extremely expensive to control them once they have spread throughout the lake and virtually impossible to eradicate them.

Hydrilla is not yet found in Michigan, but is knocking on our front door.  It covers a lake with a thick green blanket like seen in this picture from Florida.Photo by Ann Murray, University of Florida/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants. Used with permission.

Hydrilla is not yet found in Michigan, but is knocking on our front door. It covers a lake with a thick green blanket like we see in this picture from Florida.
Photo by Ann Murray, University of Florida/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants. Used with permission.

 

2013 Yields a Bumper Stonefly Crop

  • A beautiful Huron River, where it crosses Zeeb Road. credit: John Lloyd A beautiful Huron River, where it crosses Zeeb Road. credit: John Lloyd
  • Dave Wilson samples Woods Creek! credit: Nate Antieau Dave Wilson samples Woods Creek! credit: Nate Antieau
  • Digging through the muck of Port Creek. credit: Mark Schaller Digging through the muck of Port Creek. credit: Mark Schaller
  • A quick break for the camera! credit: John Lloyd A quick break for the camera! credit: John Lloyd
  • "Do you see anything?" credit: John Lloyd "Do you see anything?" credit: John Lloyd
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Bring on the “brrr!”

On January 26, 110 intrepid volunteers faced the harsh winter elements and spread across the Huron River watershed in search of stoneflies, which are only found in clean and healthy streams.  Everyone made it back safe, which is the number one priority, and it seemed that a good time was had by all.

In 2012 the Stonefly Search volunteers had to deal with melting snow and flood conditions, but this year we had a deep freeze in the week preceeding the Search, and most of the teams had to break their way through the ice in order to sample the stream macroinvertebrates. Despite this challenging problem, stoneflies were found in great abundance at many locations.  The results are in, and are given in this pdf report.

Highlights:

1.  The status quo is being maintained for most of the sampling sites.  Sites that have had stoneflies in the past are still able to support them, and sites that were not healthy enough to hold stoneflies still do not have them.  That being said, we did see a few changes this year which are detailed below.

2. Four sites had the best stonefly samples that had ever been seen at those locations: Chilson Creek at Chilson Road, Fleming Creek at Galpin Road, the Huron River at Flat Rock, and Woodruff Creek at Buno Road.  At each of these sites, the stoneflies normally found at the location were there, but also new stonefly families were found that had never been seen there before! A greater diversity of stoneflies indicates greater stream health.  These are promising results and hopefully it will continue into longer term trends.

3. The team searching for stoneflies in Woods Creek in Belleville came back disappointed.  Wood’s Creek at the Lower Huron Metropark has been sampled 12 times since 1997, and this is the first time that stoneflies could not be found. The problem likely comes from the thick ice and difficult conditions rather than pollution or disturbed stream habitat, but we will keep an eye on Wood’s Creek next year.

4. Traver Creek is a stream in north Ann Arbor that has typical urban stream problems- in particular, flashy flows and runoff, oil, and sediment from roads.  In the past couple of years, part of the train track berm washed out and released a large plume of sediment to Traver Creek.  However, we were pleased that both of the sites sampled on Traver Creek this year turned up stoneflies.  The sites were both upstream and downstream of the wash-out.

Next on the horizon!

Interested in doing more with our macroinvertebrate searches?  Think about becoming a trained leader or collector by coming to the next training on March 24.  This is an extremely important job because every team needs both a trained leader and collector, and we often do not have enough to meet the demand.  Sign up for the training!

 

 

 

HRWC’s Volunteer Army Descends on the Watershed!

On October 6, one-hundred twenty brave and intrepid volunteers spread across the Huron River watershed to collect benthic macroinvertebrates: the  crustaceans, insects, and mollusks that live in our creeks and rivers.  Typically, only the healthiest streams will have abundant and diverse populations.  Polluted streams and other streams that are heavily impacted by human activities will hold fewer of these creatures, and may only contain the most pollution tolerant types.  By watching the long-term trends of these populations, HRWC can tell where pollution may be becoming a problem and that helps direct HRWC’s time and effort.

See the full set of results from this past River Roundup event.

Dave Wilson samples Woods Creek midst a flurry of beautiful fall colors.

Overall watershed assessment

In order to get an overall sense of the health of the Huron River Watershed, HRWC samples macroinvertebrates from sixty-six 300 foot sections of the creeks and rivers.  The sampling sites have been selected to provide equal geographic representation from the various areas throughout the watershed.

In regards to their overall quality:

  • 2 sites are excellent (The best, most pristine areas)
  • 17 sites are good (Their macroinvertebrate populations are higher than we would expect based on the stream size, water temperature, and stream substrate).
  • 24 sites are fair (Their macroinvertebrate populations are slightly lower than we would expect based on the stream size, water temperature, and stream substrate)
  • 10 sites are poor (Pollution and other human impacts have severely damaged the macroinvertebrate populations at these sites)
  • 10 sites are new to the program and cannot be judged until more data is collected.

In regards to how the macroinvertebrate populations are changing at these sites:

  • 28 sites have remained largely unchanged since monitoring began on them
  • 15 sites have improved
  • 13 sites have declined
  • 10 sites are new to the program and cannot be judged until more data is collected.

Trend analysis shows tremendous variation by County

Three counties contain most of the Adopt-a-Stream sampling sites: Livingston, Oakland, and Washtenaw. When HRWC analyzed overall trends by county, a clear distinction appeared. The upstream counties, Oakland and Livingston, both showed roughly one third of sites declining, and no more than one tenth of sites improving. On the other hand, in Washtenaw County hardly any sites were declining and nearly half the sites were improving!

With results such as this, it is easy to start pointing fingers or consider the amount of money spent by these counties in improving water quality.  However, streams are complex systems, with many stressors, and this  analysis does not address the reasons for the differences we are seeing between the counties.

The two additional watershed counties, Wayne and Monroe, had too few study sites to detect overall trends.

Other noteworthy results

Drought causes influx of “marsh-loving” species into the Huron.

  • This year we saw a marked increase in marsh flies, marsh beetles, mosquitoes, and water treaders in the River Roundup samples. These critters prefer a habitat of slow-moving or stagnant water. This year’s drought has caused the flow in the Huron and it’s tributaries to slacken, and smaller regional pools, marshes, and wetlands to dry up. Whether these critters are moving in from dried-out-homes or flourishing in a sluggish creeks (or most likely both), the recent changes in weather patterns are certainly affecting the types of insects found in the Huron River.  (For comparison, last autumn’s heavy rains caused a corresponding drop in the prevalence of these species).

Good News at Mallet’s Creek: Restoration efforts look to be paying off!

  • Mallets Creek is one of the Huron’s most disturbed streams, earning an overall rating of poor. The creek is “flashy,” flooding dramatically with rainfall, which results in erosion and an influx of pollutants.  To address this problem, the City of Ann Arbor, the Washtenaw County Office of Water Resources Commissioner, and the Michigan Department of Environment Quality (DEQ) are collaborating on restoration efforts in the area. Ongoing projects include the creation of a 15 million gallon wet meadow, stream bank stabilization, and seeding of native vegetation. These efforts, along with homeowner-installed rain gardens and rain barrels, help decrease stormwater flashes.  Source: annarbor.com
  • This fall’s sampling of Mallet’s revealed encouraging improvement; An unusual increase in insect families were found.  For instance, volunteers collected 11 insect families compared to the recent average of 7.2. Species not seen at this site since 1996 were discovered, including the water boatman, finger-net caddisfly, and marsh beetle. While these improvements are not yet statistically significant, they are a great sign that local restoration projects are making a difference for our waterways.
Special note:  Volunteer Genevieve Leet contributed extensively to this data analysis and this blog. Thanks for your help, Genevieve!

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