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Vulnerability of Nearshore Lake Ontario Fish Habitat and Fisheries in a Changing Environment


Nearshore fish habitats in Lake Ontario, which are of critical value to Canadians, are vulnerable to changes in water levels, temperature, storm severity, and ice cover. Using a range of climate projections for Lake Ontario, this project will assess the impact of climate change on these habitats and use this information to evaluate changes to habitat supply based on fish community needs. Potential risks to lake-wide fish production, focusing on key species (northern pike, yellow perch, smallmouth bass, and largemouth bass) will be investigated. Nearshore areas in Lake Ontario vulnerable to climate change, as well as those important for maintaining production of the species being studied, will also be identified.

Results: Researchers updated the Lake Ontario digital elevation model using newer nearshore information to more accurately represent the surface elevation in the area. The physical and habitat components of the model were updated with a 3D representation of nearshore and lake temperatures and a new wetland vegetation component of the model was added. Climate projection information was gathered for lake surface temperature, lake levels, and potential wind and storm changes.

Progress was slowed due to limited availability of the recent local climate scenarios and relevant variables for Lake Ontario that are needed to incorporate climate scenarios into model simulations. This is a gap that needs to be addressed for Great Lakes climate impact modelling. However, older climate model projections were used to estimate habitat supply and fish population dynamics for the four key species.

Maps and results generated from these updated models will be useful for fisheries management.

Program Name

Aquatic Climate Change Adaptation Services Program (ACCASP)


Central Canada: Great Lakes, St. Lawrence Freshwater Drainage Basin

Principal Investigator(s)

Susan Doka
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

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