Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Mapping: Great Lakes


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Great Lakes

Mains level: Not Much


Scientists are building a sensor network to detect the trends in the water chemistry of Lake Huron, one of the five Great Lakes of North America.

What is the Acidification of water bodies?

  • Acidification of oceans or freshwater bodies takes place when excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere gets rapidly absorbed into them.
  • Scientists initially believed this might be a good thing, as it leaves less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
  • But in the past decade or so, it has been established that absorption of carbon dioxide leads to a lowering of the pH, which makes the water bodies more acidic.

What are Great Lakes?

  • The Great Lakes are a series of large interconnected freshwater lakes in the mid-east region of North America that connect to the Atlantic Ocean via the Saint Lawrence River.
  • There are five lakes, which are Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario and are in general on or near the Canada–US border.
  • Hydrologically, lakes Michigan and Huron are a single body joined at the Straits of Mackinac.
  • By itself, Lake Huron is the world’s third largest freshwater lake, after Lake Superior and Lake Victoria.
  • The Great Lakes Waterway enables modern travel and shipping by water among the lakes.

Why are they significant?

  • The Great Lakes contain a fifth of the world’s total freshwater, and is a crucial source of irrigation and transportation.
  • They also serve as the habitat for more than 3,500 species of plants and animals.

Acidification of Great Lakes

  • Scientists are developing a system that would be capable of measuring the carbon dioxide and pH levels of the Great Lakes over several years.
  • It is known that the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide has caused the world’s oceans to turn more acidic.
  • Recently, it has been observed that by 2100, even the Great Lakes — Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario — might approach acidity at around the same rate as the oceans.
  • Researchers hope the data from the Lake Huron project would add to scientific information on the subject.

Consequences of acidification

  • The Great Lakes are believed to have been born some 20,000 years ago, when the Earth started to warm and water from melting glaciers filled the basins on its surface.
  • However, this rich ecosphere is under threat as the five lakes would witness a pH decline of 0.29-0.49 pH units — meaning they would become more acidic — by 2100.
  • This may lead to a decrease in native biodiversity, create physiological challenges for organisms, and permanently alter the structure of the ecosystem, scientists say.
  • It would also severely impact the hundreds of wooden shipwrecks that are believed to be resting at the bottom of these lakes.


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