The Great Lakes as an Ecosystem
Before we can begin to understand why the Great Lakes are so important to people, it is important for us to understand a little bit about the type of environment that can be found near the Great Lakes. We need to explore what kind of plants and animals live in the Great Lakes region along with the many factors that people contribute to the region. The ecosystem of the Great Lakes is a delicate balanance of man and environment that has evolved to it's current point after hundreds of years. But, because this balance is so delicate, it is important that the people who live and work in the Great Lakes region work together to keep the ecosystem balanced.
The map provided here, is a sample of what a normal water system would look like if you were to draw out the cycle. A water system is a vital aspect of the ecosystem; without it, the Great Lakes would not exist. The map to the right shows how the rain completes a cycle of going through earth and back up to the atmosphere.
An ecosystem, however, is much more than just a water cycle. The land and water in and around the Great Lakes creates shelter for the millions of plants and animals that live there. Each plant and animal does it's part to keep the ecosystem balanced through its participation in the food chain, and just by living in the region. That is, certain animals balance the plant population by eating the plants, while other animals balance the animal populations by eating other animals. But each plant and animal does more than that. The plants work to keep the air clean by replcing carbon dioxide with oxegen. Plants also prevent soil from eroding during a rain storm by simply planting it's roots int the soil. It all works out very well.
The delicate balance of the ecosystem can be very easily disturbed. And it is the people in the area that usually have the greatest impact on the ecosystem. Each time that a new house is built, land is changed from it's past state, forever altering the ecosystem. When factories dump their waste in to the environment, plants and animals are killed, leaving a gap in the delicate ecosystem that has formed over thousands of years.