The Great Lakes: The Natural History of a Changing Region

Paperback | March 28, 2011

byWayne GradyIllustratorEmily DamstraPhotographed byBruce Litteljohn

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Five immense lakes lie at the heart of North America. They comprise the world's largest freshwater system, containing 95 percent of the continent's fresh water, and one-fifth of the planet's total supply. The Great Lakes drainage basin is home to 40 million people and is the hub of industry and agriculture in North America. Its rich mineral deposits and natural resources have attracted and sustained human and wildlife populations for more than ten thousand years.

The Great Lakes: A Natural History is the most authoritative, complete, and accessible book to date about the biology and ecology of this vital, ever-changing lake system. Written by one of Canada's best-known science and nature writers, Wayne Grady this essential resource features superb nature photography and numerous sidebars that focus on specific animal, plant and invertebrate species.

Published in partnership with the David Suzuki Foundation. Also available in hardcover.

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From the Publisher

Five immense lakes lie at the heart of North America. They comprise the world's largest freshwater system, containing 95 percent of the continent's fresh water, and one-fifth of the planet's total supply. The Great Lakes drainage basin is home to 40 million people and is the hub of industry and agriculture in North America. Its rich mi...

Wayne Grady is one of Canada's finest science writers and a Governor General's Award-winning translator. He has authored eleven books of nonfiction, translated fourteen novels, and edited more than a dozen anthologies of short stories and creative nonfiction.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:360 pages, 10 × 7.5 × 1 inPublished:March 28, 2011Publisher:Greystone Books Ltd.Language:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1553658043

ISBN - 13:9781553658047

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Preface The Great Lakes endure the fate of all familiar features in nature: they are taken for granted equally by those who know them and by those who don't. Like mountain ranges or prairie skies, their size makes us forget they're there; we may cast a glance at them in the morning to make sure the universe is arranged more or less as it had been the previous night, but then we don't think of them for the rest of the day. When I lived in Toronto and visitors asked me how to get to the lakefront, I'd have to think before replying, "Oh yes, go south." When I moved to Kingston, Ontario, and was asked the same question, I'd be turned around: "It's south-no, east!" In Windsor, on the Detroit River, where I was born, it was: "Up that way, north." The simple truth is that, to me, the Great Lakes seem to be everywhere. I have lived on them all my life, except for a brief period spent in northern Quebec, and even then I felt connected to the Lakes by the St. Lawrence River. Windsor is an upside-down Canadian city: we looked north to the United States. I remember skating on Lake St. Clair, on transparent ice that had frozen so quickly its surface held the shape of waves. I looked down giddily between my skates to see schools of minnows darting among fronds of bottom-anchored plants. I recall swimming in Lake Erie, off Point Pelee, and being taken to visit the bird sanctuary established in Kingsville by the legendary Jack Miner, who saved the threatened Canada goose from extinction. My father, too, had been born in Windsor, and although he spent World War ii on the North Atlantic, when the war was over he brought his Newfoundland bride back to his hometown because, as he said, he missed the water. My great-grandfather had moved to Windsor from Cass County, Michigan, at the end of the nineteenth century. Cass County and its seat, Cassopolis, was named for Michigan Territory's first governor, Lewis "Big Belly" Cass, who, with the geologist Thomas McKenney and Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, the future Indian agent, explored the country around Lake Superior in 1825. By the time my father's family moved to Michigan, shortly after the American Civil War, Cass County was a major stop on the Underground Railroad. Andrew Jackson Grady had a cup of coffee there, as they say in baseball, and then moved on to Windsor. We later lived for a time north of Toronto, not far from Lake Simcoe, part of the ancient water route through which, 4,000 years ago, Lake Huron drained directly into Lake Ontario, bypassing Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River and Lake Erie. I fished for chub in the narrow creeks that cut through pastures and cedar bushes, watched ducks and turtles and frogs in the few remaining wetlands in the area, and tobogganed in valleys laden with snow in the lee of the Niagara Escarpment. My brother now lives in Sault Ste. Marie. The web of my family thus embraces all five Lakes and two of the three waterways between them. Even so, I did not fully appreciate the Lakes until I boarded a freighter in Thunder Bay, at the western end of Lake Superior, and sailed through all five as the ship carried a load of wheat to the St. Lawrence. Standing on a throbbing deck, under the limitless expanse of sky, I lost sight of land in every direction. It took us all night to sail the length of Lake Superior, and I saw no other lights but the stars. The historian Arthur Lower, who had made the same journey three decades earlier, wrote that "Superior is impressive at all times, never more so than at midnight." Impressive, yes, but also somehow comforting, as though the knowledge of all that clear sky above us, and all that freshwater beneath us, and our ability to traverse both in safety, suggested to me that our survival as a species was both miraculous and assured. Since then I have come to know the Lakes more intimately still. They have been studied, assessed, analyzed, sampled, probed, and researched by scientists from the fifteen universities and the governments of the seven states and one Canadian province that surround them, and the fruits of those endeavors are largely what inform this book. More data has come from the hundreds of nongovernmental agencies and citizens' groups that are working to preserve the natural beauty and quality of the Lakes and the Lakes basin. I am grateful to all who have published their findings in scholarly journals, in books, and on Web sites. The names of the individuals who agreed to form the panel of experts are listed elsewhere, and I am grateful that they made themselves available in the midst of their own busy schedules. Many others have been generous with their time and expertise, some of whom I thank here by name: George Barron, soil biologist, University of Guelph; Peg Bostwick, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality; Paula Fedeski-Koundakjian, International Joint Commission; Graeme Gibson, Pelee Island Bird Observatory; Melissa Helwig, Library of the Canadian Centre for Inland Water; Judith Jones, biologist, Manitoulin Island; Jerome Keen, Great Lakes Fisheries Commission; Hugh MacIsaac, University of Windsor; Robert Montgomery, Queen's University; Geoff Peach, Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation; Richard Ubbens, city forester, City of Toronto; and Paige Wilder, Biodiversity Project, Madison, Wisconsin. This book would not exist in anything like its present form without the patience and persistence of Jan Walter, its editor. Barbara Czarnecki's diligence and exactitude have also been invaluable. Bruce Litteljohn is a brilliant photographer and a devoted environmentalist, and his assistance has contributed not only to the look but also to the integrity of this book. And I would also like to thank Bella Pomer, Rob Sanders, and, as always, Merilyn Simonds. -Athens, Ontario, June 2007

Table of Contents

Preface The Freshwater Seas Foundation Stones The Boreal Forest The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Forest The Carolinian Forest Life in the Margins Water World Invasions The Future of the Great Lakes Further Reading Scientific Names Illustration Credits Index

Editorial Reviews

The Great Lakes not only includes a terrific range of information but also, I think, inspires the aspiring bioregionalist-reader to look and think more closely at the relationships between everyday encounters with local flora and fauna…the best parts of the book allow us to catch a glimpse of the rich ecological relations of the watershed, and to consider our everyday actions in light of their inevitable impacts on the water, soil, plants and other animals that compromise the Great lakes – and theirs on usAssociation for Literature, Environment, and Culture in Canada""...he tantalizes you with a fact that is so intriguing that you really want to keep reading to discover more. For example, did you know that the beaver is the only mammal whose growth is indeterminate? They just keep growing!""Great Lakes For AllA beautifully designed, comprehensive gem of a guide to the ecosystem at the heart of Canada.”The TyeeGrady does a stellar job explaining how every creature from monarch butterflies… to Toronto’s skunks… to the frogs of the boreal forest… play out their chimerical or smelly roles in this vast and layered natural drama. …Threats to the Lakes’ integrity are increasingly met with resistance. If the written work is still meaningful in advancing this crucial resistance, this challenging book should be sent into battle immediately, and given a place on the front lines.”Globe and Mail…Grady writes compellingly about the rocks, forests and creatures of the lakes, as well as the changes for good and bad that have been seen over the years.”Chronicle Herald…the most complete and up-to-date resource about the ecology of the world’s largest freshwater system.”Explore Magazine