Great Lakes Indiana Recreation and Tourism

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Climate Change in Indiana
Piping Plover
Climate Projections
Human Health
Lakes, Streams, & Fish
Property and Infrastructure
Recreation & Tourism
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Climate Change Impacts:
Recreation and Tourism

Numerous Indiana parks, streams, and rivers offer a wide variety of recreational opportunities and tourist attractions for campers, hikers, anglers, wildlife watchers, and hunters. Nearly 2 million visitors came to Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in 2002 alone.

The most certain impacts of climate change will be on winter sport 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 Indiana are:

  • A Change in the Distribution of Fish Species
    Striped BassAs waters warm, the types of fish species that inhabit them will likely change. 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.

  • An Increase in Summer Stratification
    Stratification of lakes occurs when a warm surface layer of water develops over cooler, deeper water. A warming climate increases the duration of summer stratification in the deep lakes. This, in turn, makes frequent and larger "dead zones"—areas of water depleted of oxygen and unable to support life—more likely to occur. Persistent dead zones can result in toxic algal blooms, foul-smelling, musty-tasting drinking water, damage to fisheries, and massive fish kills—known as "summerkill".

  • Loss of Winter Ice
    Declines in the duration of winter ice on lakes are expected to continue. The loss of winter ice may be a mixed blessing for fish, reducing winterkill from oxygen deficits in shallow lakes but also jeopardizing reproduction of whitefish in the Great Lakes bays, where ice cover protects the eggs from winter storm disturbance.

  • 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, and may involve some restrictions and require behavioral adjustments by tourists and local outdoor enthusiasts.

  • 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, the 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 has already significantly reduced wetland habitat. Loss of habitat or food resources for migratory birds, shorebirds, and waterfowl will affect Indiana's birdwatching and hunting industries.

Photo Credits:
Piping Plover -- National Park Service, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
Striped Bass -- John Maxwell (Courtesy of Indiana DNR)
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