Great Lakes Illinois Recreation and Tourism

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Climate Change in Illinois
Greater Prairie Chicken
Climate Projections
Human Health
Property and Infrastructure
Recreation & Tourism
Water Supply & Pollution
Wetlands and Shorebirds
Climate Solutions
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Climate Change Impacts:
Recreation and Tourism

Illinois draws anglers, boaters, birders, and crowds of beach visitors each year. These visitors enjoy the natural resources that Illinois' ecosystems provide, and fuel the state's tourism sector. Climate change impacts upon ecosystems will change the quality of recreation for visitors and have consequences for the tourist industry.

The most certain impacts of climate change will be on winter activities. Communities and businesses dependent on revenues from winter sports could be hard hit. Some of these communities and businesses, however, may make up the loss by expanding warm weather tourism and recreation. Among the potential impacts of climate change with implications for recreation and tourism in Illinois are:

  • A Change in the Distribution of Fish Species
    AnglersAs waters warm, the types of fish species that inhabit them will likely change. Range shifts, loss of habitat, and increases or declines of preferred catch will affect anglers on Lake Michigan and inland lakes. For example, the range of warm-water fish such as smallmouth bass or bluegill is likely to expand northward, while cold-water species such as lake trout and brown trout, and even some cool-water fish such as northern pike and walleye, may decline dramatically, potentially to the point where they disappear from the southern parts of the region. These changes are likely to impact Illinois' annual state tax revenue generated from anglers, which exceeds $9 million.

  • An Increase in the Accumulation of Contaminants in Fish
    Lower oxygen and warmer temperatures promote greater microbial decomposition, and subsequent release of contaminants from bottom sediments. Thus, an accumulation of mercury and other contaminants in the aquatic food chain may accelerate.

  • A Loss of Bird Diversity
    A warming climate will drive complex changes in habitat, food resources, and other factors that will likely diminish bird diversity. Development and agriculture have already significantly reduced wetland habitat. Projected changes in climate may lead to an additional loss of habitat or food resources for migratory birds, shorebirds, and waterfowl—affecting Illinois' birdwatching and hunting industries.

  • An Expanded Summer Recreation Season, with Risks
    As temperatures warm further, extreme heat, extreme storms, elevated ozone levels, and possible increases in risk from insect- and waterborne disease will affect beachgoers and boaters. These events may involve some restrictions and require behavioral adjustments by tourists and local outdoor enthusiasts.

Photo Credits:
Greater Prairie Chicken -- Illinois State Photo Gallery.
Fishers -- US Army Corps of Engineers
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