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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Adaptive Capacity for eutrophication governance of the Laurentian Great Lakes

  • Author(s): Jetoo, Savitri
  • Krantzberg, Gail
  • et al.

The Great Lakes are the largest freshwater body in the world, holding 20% of the worlds freshwater. Together, Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario, are home to over 35million Americans and Canadians, a factor that lead to severe human related stress to the lakes’ ecosystem. The eutrophication of Lake Erie is one manifestation of this anthropogenic stress from nutrient enrichment from farming, sewage treatment plant discharges, airborne emissions and nutrient flows from paved surfaces. This paper examines the eutrophication of Lake Erie and shows that it is a wicked problem that can benefit from an adaptive governance approach. More specifically, it proposes a framework for assessing adaptive capacity and tests this framework through key informant interviews in the case where adaptive capacity was displayed; a Lake Erie that went from severe eutrophication the 1960s to significant nutrient reduction and restoration of the Lake Erie ecosystem in the 1990s. This research also aims to identify gaps in adaptive capacity for current eutrophication governance of Lake Erie.

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