Economic and Ecosystem Maps Clarify Great Lakes Restoration Priorities

It’s a given that the Great Lakes’ natural resources and recreational benefits translate into local dollars—but until recently, no one had the economic data mapped with the range of services provided by the natural environment. Without that data, restoration planners could not know which proposed projects were likely to deliver the biggest bang for the buck for the coastal economy, ecosystem, and cultural activities.

To help, the Great Lakes Environmental Assessment and Mapping Project developed a map bringing together NOAA’s Digital Coast economic data on tourism and recreation with their own data, which pinpointed the natural resources that support sport fishing, recreational boating, birding, beach use, and park visitation.

Bringing these data sets together in a visual format enabled Great Lakes officials and planners to “see” where restoration actions could deliver potentially big economic, ecosystem, or cultural benefits. They also found that locations very high in recreational use often suffer greater environmental stressors and therefore might need more restoration attention. These discoveries and others are informing current and future restoration plans. (2016)

More Information: and

Partners: Great Lakes Environmental Assessment and Mapping Project, Michigan Technological University, NOAA Office for Coastal Management and Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, Oregon State University, The Nature Conservancy, University of Michigan, University of Wisconsin