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Glossary of technical terms
    that appear in the LaMPs

Acronyms | Words and definitions

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An exotic amphipod that has replaced Gammarus fasciatus, another exotic, in many regions in the Great Lakes.

Ecological Risk Assessment

An organized procedure to evaluate the likelihood that adverse ecological effects will occur as a result of exposure to stressors related to human activities, such as the draining of wetlands or release of chemicals.


The complex of a living community and its physical and chemical environment, functioning together as a unit in nature, with some inherent stability. An ecological community and its environment functioning as a unit in nature. A biological community and its environment working together as a functional system, including transferring and circulating energy and matter. It is an interconnected community of living things, including, humans, and the physical environment with which they interact.

Ecosystem approach

A comprehensive and holistic approach to understanding and anticipating ecological change, assessing the full range of consequences, and developing appropriate management responses. The integration of water quality management and natural resources management, across jurisdictional boundaries, in order to protect and restore the beneficial uses of the Great Lakes ecosystem. The goal of the ecosystem approach is to restore and maintain the health, sustainability, and biological diversity of ecosystems while supporting sustainable economies and communities. The 1994 SOLEC Integration Paper prepared by the EPA and Environment Canada defined the ecosystem approach to management as "a holistic approach that recognizes the interconnectedness of and addresses the linkages occurring among air, water, land, and living things."

Ecosystem Charter for the Great Lakes Basin

Initiated by the Great Lakes Commission, this is a binational statement of goals, objectives, principles, and action items for the Great Lakes with a plan for achieving it. This non-binding agreement supports a philosophy of "ecosystem management that recognizes natural resources as part of a dynamic and complete matrix that pays no heed to political boundaries or jurisdictions. Also see "Great Lakes Commission."

Ecosystem indicator(s)

Measures of progress towards meeting ecosystem objectives. Indicators can range in type from administrative measures of activities such as number of permits issued, to environmental measures such as water chemistry or fish populations. When tracked over time, an ecosystem indicator provides information on trends in important characteristics of the system. Also known as an "environmental indicator."

Ecosystem Integrity

A measure of the capacity of ecosystems to renew themselves and continually supply resources and essential services. Ecosystem integrity is the degree to which all ecosystem elements -- species, habitats, and natural processes -- are intact and functioninng in ways that ensure sustainability and long-term adaptation to changing environmental conditions and human uses.

Ecosystem Management

The process of sustaining ecosystem integrity through partnerships and interdisciplinary teamwork. Ecosystem-based management focuses on three interacting dimensions: the economy, the social community, and the environment. Ecosystem-based management seeks to sustain ecological health while meeting economic needs and human uses.

Ecosystem objectives

statements describing the desired conditions within an ecosystem to be attained and maintained (such as clean drinking water). These statements can include specific descriptions of the desired state of the biological, chemical, and physical components of the ecosystem.


Liquid wastes that are discharged into the environment as a by-product of human-oriented processes, such as waste material, liquid industrial refuse, or sewage.

Effluent Limitation

Any restriction placed on quantities, discharge rates, and concentrations of pollutants that are discharged from point sources into waters of the United States or the ocean. See also "40 CFR" and "Clean Water Act."


An area of water protected by land forming a bay such as Saginaw Bay.

Emerging Pollutant(s)

Toxic substances that, while not presently known to contribute to use impairments or to show increasing loadings or concentrations, have characteristics that indicate a potential to impact the physical or biological integrity of the Great Lakes. These characteristics include presence in the watershed, ability to bioaccumulate, persistence (greater than 8 weeks), and toxicity. Emerging pollutants include atrazine, selenium, and PCB substitute compounds.

End Point Subgoal

End point subgoals describe the desired levels of ecosystem integrity and ecological services required to restore beneficial uses and provide for healthy human and natural communities in the basin. See also "means subgoals."

Endangered Species Act (ESA)

Federal statutes passed in 1973 that protect endangered and threatened species. The act has 16 sections.

Endangered Species Act Reauthorization (ESAR)

The name for the federal legislative process to amend the Endangered Species Act. It is anticipated that reauthorization will occur in the mid- to late-1990s.

Environment Canada (EC)

The lead federal agency responsible for implementing Great Lakes 2000 and the 1994 Canada-Ontario Agreement respecting the Great Lakes Basin ecosystem. Together, Great Lakes 2000 and the Canada-Ontario Agreement represent the Canadian response to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

Environmental contaminants

Substances foreign to a natural system or present at unnatural concentrations. They may be chemicals, bacteria or viruses, or the products of radioactivity. Some contaminants are created by human activities while others are the result of natural processes.

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)

A decision-making process mandated under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) which may require a detailed environmental impact statement analyzing the potential significant environmental impacts and alternatives to the action before the action is permitted. A public comment period takes place on each EIA.

Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)

A statement detailing the environmental impacts of and the alternatives to an action. See "Environmental Impact Assessment."

Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program (EMAP)

A federal program initiated by the EPA in 1988 to provide improved information on the current status and long-term trends in the condition of the nationís ecological resources. Seven resource categories are defined: near coastal waters, the Great Lakes, inland surface waters, wetlands, forests, arid lands, and agroecosystems.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

A federal agency whose primary goal is to prevent or mitigate the adverse impacts of pollution on human health and the environment.

Environmental stressors

Factors which cause, or have the potential to cause, impairments of beneficial uses of the Great Lakes. These factors include chemical, physical, or biological influences on the Great Lakes ecosystem, as well as management practices.

Episodic Events -- Great Lakes Experiment (EEGLE)

The EEGLE project will incorporate water currents, temperature, waves, and ice, along with sediment transport and food simulations into the Lake Michigan Mass Balance Model to determine the impact of the massive spring turbidity plume along 200 miles of southern Lake Michigan shoreline. The model will be presented to ecosystem managers and the public in 2002.


The wearing away of the land surface by running waters, glaciers, winds, and waves. Erosion occurs naturally from weather or runoff but can be intensified by land-clearing practices related to farming, residential or industrial development, road building, or timber cutting.

Estuary (Freshwater)

Areas of interaction between rivers and nearshore lake waters, where seiche activity and river flow create a mixing of lake and river water. These areas may include bays, mouths of rivers, marshes, and lagoons. These ecosystems shelter and feed fish, birds, and wildlife. Most importantly, Great Lakes estuaries provide habitat for wildlife and for young-of-the-year and juvenile fish.

Eurasian Ruffe

A non-indigenous species now found in Lake Superior and Lake Huron. This relatively new invader is a member of the perch family. It is usually less than 6 inches long, has a perch-like body shape, and is very slimy when handled. This fish may be competing with native perch and other fish for food. There is a great deal of concern over the potential for this fish to expand its range into other North American waters. It has also been called the European ruffe and river ruffe. See also "aquatic nuisance species."

Eurasian Watermilfoil

An exotic aquatic macrophyte that forms thick underwater stands of tangled stems and vast mats of vegetation on the surface of inland lakes. In many shallow areas this plant can crowd out native plants and interfere with water recreation such as boating, fishing, and swimming. The plant can spread from lake to lake by stem fragments that cling to boats and trailers. Public education campaigns aimed at preventing unintentional transport of the plant by boaters have successfully slowed its spread in some states. See also "aquatic nuisance species."


Relatively high amounts of nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen) in the water column. Although eutrophic conditions occur naturally in the late stages of many lakes, rapid increases in nutrients due to human activities can destabilize aquatic food webs because plants and aquatic organisms cannot adjust to rapid changes in nutrient levels. The state of a well-nourished, productive lake that typically exhibits low levels of dissolved oxygen.


The process by which a lake (or other body of water) becomes rich in dissolved nutrients and deficient in oxygen, occurring either as a natural stage in lake maturation or artificially induced by human activities such as the addition of fertilizers and organic wastes from runoff.

Exotic Species

See "non-indigenous species" and "aquatic nuisance species."


Any contact between a substance and an individual who has touched, breathed or swallowed it.

Exposure Assessment

Estimates the amount of a substance something is exposed to.

Exposure pathways

The pathway a contaminant may take to reach humans or other living organisms, and includes drinking water, recreational water and fish/food consumption.

Exposure routes

The three major routes that chemical and microbial pollutants enter the human body are by ingestion (water, food, soil), inhalation (airborne), and dermal contact (skin exposure).

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