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The Great Lakes

Cover of The Great Lakes

The Great Lakes

The Natural History of a Changing Region
The Great Lakes have been central to the development of eastern North America. In this “beautifully designed, comprehensive gem of a guide to the ecosystem at the heart of Canada” (The Tyee), award-winning science and nature writer Wayne Grady makes scientific concepts accessible as he reveals how human impact has changed this life-giving region.

The Great Lakes: A Natural History of a Changing Region is the most authoritative, complete and accessible book to date about the biology and ecology of this vital, ever-changing terrain. Written by one of Canada's best-known science and nature writers, it is intended not only for those who live in the Great Lakes region, but for anyone captivated by the splendor of the natural world and sensitive to the challenges of its preservation. It is both a first-hand tribute and an essential guide to a fascinating ecosystem in eternal flux.
The Great Lakes have been central to the development of eastern North America. In this “beautifully designed, comprehensive gem of a guide to the ecosystem at the heart of Canada” (The Tyee), award-winning science and nature writer Wayne Grady makes scientific concepts accessible as he reveals how human impact has changed this life-giving region.

The Great Lakes: A Natural History of a Changing Region is the most authoritative, complete and accessible book to date about the biology and ecology of this vital, ever-changing terrain. Written by one of Canada's best-known science and nature writers, it is intended not only for those who live in the Great Lakes region, but for anyone captivated by the splendor of the natural world and sensitive to the challenges of its preservation. It is both a first-hand tribute and an essential guide to a fascinating ecosystem in eternal flux.
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    From The Prologue:

    I was born on the Great Lakes. Actually, I was born between two Great Lakes, in Windsor, Ontario, across from Detroit, Michigan, in that odd little linkage - Detroit River, Lake St. Clair, St. Clair River - between Lake Erie and Lake Huron. In the shadow of the Ambassador Bridge, at the mouth of the Detroit Tunnel. The joke in Windsor is that the light at the end of the tunnel is downtown Detroit.
    Windsor is a curious city, almost Mexicanized. We looked north to the United States, across the riverine international border. I remember skating on Lake St. Clair, on transparent ice that had frozen so quickly it was still in the shape of waves. I looked down giddily beneath my bobskates to see schools of minnows dart among waving fronds of bottom-anchored plants. I remember swimming in Lake Erie, off Point Pelee, and being taken to visit the now-legendary Jack Miner, who was then working hard at his bird sanctuary near Leamington to save the threatened Canada goose from extinction, an endeavour in which he succeeded admirably.
    My father's family had moved to Windsor from Cass County, Michigan, at the end of the 19th century, a move that took them due east, not north. Cass County was named for Michigan Territory's first governor, Lewis "Big Belly" Cass who, with Thomas McKenney and Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, travelled around Lake Superior in 1825 signing Indian treaties and searching for "any metals or minerals from any part of their country" that would lure future settlers to the territory. By the time my father's family moved to Michigan, shortly after the American Civil War, Cass County was a major stop on the Underground Railroad. My great-grandfather, Andrew Jackson Grady, had a cup of coffee there, as they say in major-league baseball, before moving on to Windsor.
    We later lived for a time north of Toronto, on Lake Simcoe, which is part of the ancient water route through which, 4,000 years ago, Lake Huron drained directly into Lake Ontario, bypassing Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River and Lake Erie altogether. And I have a brother living in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, across the St. Mary's River from Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, the former home of Henry Rowe Schoolcraft. Thus the web of my family embraces the five Great Lakes and two of the three linkages between. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, and at the further risk of causing my body to be disposed of as toxic waste when I die, it is not too much of an exaggeration to say that I have Great Lakes water flowing in my veins. If, as I believe, our true homes are ecosystems, not geopolitical entities, then my home territory is the Great Lakes basin....

    From Chapter 7, "Water":

    The first non-indigenous species recorded in the Great Lakes has arguably been the one that has had the most long-lasting and deleterious effect. The sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) first appeared in Lake Ontario in 1835, and its subsequent conquest of all five lakes has been called "a biological legend," comparable to that of the introduction of the rabbit to Australia. The saga of the sea lamprey reads like a template for the many other pernicious species that have since invaded the system, from the alewife to zebra mussels.
    The lamprey is the most primitive vertebrate known to science. Fossil evidence shows it to have been around for the past 400 million years. It looks like an eel, but that is a deception that can have dire consequences: England's King Henry I is thought to have died from eating "a surfeit" of sea lampreys, thinking they were eels. A lamprey is little more than a spine and a digestive track, with a mouth at one end and an anus at the other; it has no jaws and therefore...

About the Author-
  • Wayne Grady is a foremost popular science writer and the winner of three Science in Society awards from the Canadian Science Writers Association. His previously published books recounted such diverse adventures as hunting dinosaurs in the Gobi Desert, investigating global warming at the North Pole, and discovering the wild in an urban metropolis. In 2004 he collaborated with acclaimed geneticist and environmentalist David Suzuki on Tree: A Life Story. In addition to his acclaimed work in science and nature fields, he has received the Governor General's Award for English Translation, several National Magazine Awards, and the Brascan Award for Food Writing. He is married to the writer Merilyn Simonds and lives near Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

Table of Contents-
  • Prologue
    1 The Freshwater Seas
    2 Foundation Stones
    3 The Boreal Forest
    4 The Great Lakes-St Lawrence Forest
    5 The Carolinian Forest
    6 Special Habitats: Wetlands, Alvars, and Urban Forests
    7 Water
    8 Invasions
    9 The Future
    Appendix: Scientific Names
    Bibliography
    Illustration and map credits
    Index

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    Greystone Books
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  • Copyright Protection (DRM) required by the Publisher may be applied to this title to limit or prohibit printing or copying. File sharing or redistribution is prohibited. Your rights to access this material expire at the end of the lending period. Please see Important Notice about Copyrighted Materials for terms applicable to this content.

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The Natural History of a Changing Region
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