High-resolution assessment and visualization of environmental stressors in the Lake Superior basin

George E Host, Terry N Brown, Tom P. Hollenhorst, Lucinda B Johnson, Jan J H Ciborowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Quantifying gradients of anthropogenic stress can inform the development of sample designs, provide an important covariate in modeling relationships of response variables, identify reference and highly-disturbed sites, and provide a baseline and guidance to restoration and remediation efforts. We describe development of SumRel, a composite index of anthropogenic stress, for the U.S. and Canadian Lake Superior basin. Key elements of the project include development of high-resolution watersheds throughout the basin, summarization of the major point and non-point stressors within these watersheds, and creation of tools for scaling the watersheds and stressor summaries. SumRel was calculated at two spatial scales: for high resolution subcatchments within the Lake Superior basin (mean watershed area = 93 ha) and for coastal watersheds of Lake Superior. An assessment of subcatchments within Minnesota's St. Louis River watershed showed a correlation between the degree of disturbance, as indicated by SumRel, and impaired water quality, as evidenced by in-stream conductivity. These data and tools allow identification and visualization of reference and highly-disturbed sites at multiple spatial scales, providing decision support for individual agency and binational monitoring, assessment and restoration initiatives across the Lake Superior basin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)376-385
Number of pages10
JournalAquatic Ecosystem Health and Management
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2011


  • ArcHydro
  • Great Lakes
  • anthropogenic stressors
  • environmental indicators
  • watersheds

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