Life in Lake Erie ranges in size from the smallest blue-green bacteria, such as Microcystis, to the largest animal that still lives in the lake, lake sturgeon.
Lake Erie is the most biologically productive Great Lake. The most abundant life in Lake Erie are microorganisms. Phytoplankton are a type of microorganism that uses light to grow and reproduce. Phytoplankton are the primary producers in Lake Erie.
Lake Erie’s watershed supports organisms from all taxonomic kingdoms.
The Lake Erie ecosystem provides many examples of life cycles, adaptations and important relationships among organisms, such as parasitism, symbiosis, predator-prey dynamics and energy transfer.
The Lake Erie ecosystem provides habitat for terrestrial and aquatic species. Lake Erie is multi-dimensional, offering vast living space and diverse habitats from the atmosphere to the shore, to the water surface and down through the water column into the lake bottom.
Lake Erie habitats are defined by environmental factors. As a result of interactions involving abiotic factors such as temperature, clarity, depth, oxygen, pH, light, nutrients, pressure, substrate type and circulation, life in the lake is not evenly distributed temporally or spatially. Abiotic factors within Lake Erie can change hourly, daily, seasonally or annually because of natural variation and human influences.
Abiotic conditions, prey availability and predation dynamics, influence the distribution and diversity of organisms from the surface to the bottom and from the nearshore to offshore.
Coastal wetlands, such as marshes and fresh water estuaries, provide important and productive nursery areas for many aquatic and terrestrial species which rely on these habitats for protective structure, hunting grounds, migration stops, and raising offspring.
Life cycles, behaviors, habitats and the abundance of organisms in Lake Erie and its watershed have been altered by intentional and unintentional introduction of non-native organisms. Non-native species may have positive or negative impacts on the Lake and its watershed.
Some threatened species thrive in specialized areas of the Lake Erie ecosystem.
The Lake Erie Literacy Principles and Concepts were finalized in the spring 2011.