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Strategies for Adapting Great Lakes Coastal Ecosystems to Climate Change

Natural resources practitioners working in Great Lakes coastal ecosystems face decisions about how to help coastal properties adapt to climate changes. 

Strategies for Adapting Great Lakes Coastal Ecosystems to Climate Change presents a menu of adaptation actions to help practitioners move from general concepts to tangible, targeted adaptation tactics for their system. This menu draws on a wide range of literature and contemporary reports, in addition to the expertise of regional managers and scientists convened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science. It can be used along with a structured decision-making process like the Adaptation Workbook, and can be applied to a variety of situations on Great Lakes coasts to accommodate diverse management goals, geographic settings, and site conditions. The menu was tested with several organizations in project-level planning in the Great Lakes watershed.

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How to Cite: Schmitt, K.; Krska, R.; Deloria, C.; Shannon, P.D.; Cooper, M.; Eash, J.; Haugland, J.; Johnson, S.E.; Johnson, S.M.; Magee, M.R..; Mayne, G.; Nelson, C.; Nigg, C.; Sidie-Slettedahl, A.; Brandt, L., Handler, S.; Janowiak, M.; Butler-Leopold, P.; Ontl, T.; and Swanston, C. 2022. Strategies for Adapting Great Lakes Coastal Ecosystems to Climate Change. White Paper. Houghton, MI: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Northern Forests Climate Hub. 61 p.

Case studies

We tested the application of the menu with three real-world coastal management projects in the Great Lakes. We used feedback from the project teams to refine the strategies and approaches in the final publication. The case studies featured below are included in the final report.

Ford Cove Shoreline and Coastal Restoration Project

Ford House and partners used the menu and Adaptation Workbook to integrate climate considerations into restoration planning of 1 mile of hardened Lake Saint Clair coastline, and over 17 acres of adjacent marsh, nearshore habitat, and forested wetlands. See more at

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore; Coastal Wetland Vulnerability and Adaptation

Coastal wetlands in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore are managed in part for preservation. A project team considered how climate change might affect their ability to maintain a stable number and distribution of wetland communities with high florisitic quality over time. They used the menu to consider where management interventions might be appropriate. See more at

Allouez Bay Marsh Bird Habitat Improvement Project

This highly collaborative project focuses on increasing marsh bird habitat quality by managing invasive plant species, maintaining and enriching native plants, and increasing hemi-marsh conditions at Allouez Bay. Climate challenges for this project include the potential for increasing high-energy storm events and rapid, high-magnitude water level changes. The group is planning management actions in several different phases, in part to provide wind and wave protection before undertaking certain vegetation restoration actions. See more at