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Climate Change Impacts
Lake Champlain Impacts
Increased Storm Events and Flooding
The less frequent but more intense summer rain events have led to more dangerous flash floods. Though flooding is a normal phenomenon in our ecosystem, more damaging floods have been recorded in the past half-century than ever before. Floods put shoreline property and infrastructure at risk by eroding streambanks, and wash nutrients and toxic contaminants downstream to the Lake, promoting the growth of harmful algae blooms, reducing recreational opportunities, and compromising our drinking water.
Impacts on Fish and Native Species
With less snow melt in the spring, lake and groundwater levels are reduced, altering natural fluctuations in water levels that are necessary to maintain healthy wetlands and support spawning habitat for some fish and amphibians. Shorter winters disrupt the breeding cycle of certain migrating waterfowl, and increases the overwinter survival of some nuisance species such as mosquitoes and ticks. Higher water temperatures threaten Lake Champlain’s capacity to support native cold-water fish species. In many parts of North America, warmer water temperatures have reduced the spawning success of native cold-water fish, including salmon and trout, and cool-water fish such as walleye and northern pike. Warm-water fish species (bass and invasive white perch) have increased. Fluctuations in species populations disrupt ecosystem dynamics and could affect the recreational fishing industry, an important component of the Lake Champlain regional economy.
Increasing Risk for New or Invasive Species
While native species face an uncertain future, invasive species are expanding their territories. A warmer climate means that species that previously could not survive Lake Champlain winters are now moving into the area and potentially out-competing natives. Species of particular concern include Eurasian ruffe, Hydrilla, Quagga Mussels, Round Goby, and Fishhook & Spiny Water Fleas.
Changes in Recreation
Declining ice cover during winter has affected the ice fishing industry on the Lake. Ice fishing has traditionally been a big economic boost for the region, especially in the islands. Warmer temperatures mean that more winter precipitation now falls as rain rather than snow, a challenge to the ski industry in the region. On the flip side, warmer temperatures have brought more sightseers, boaters and bikers to the area during the summer months and the shoulder seasons.
More on Climate Change Impacts
U.S. National Climate Assessment 2014 Report: Climate Change Impacts in the United States
For more information on impacts, please visit the “How does Climate Change Affect Lake Champlain” section of our State of the Lake report.
To learn about actions taken to address climate change, please visit the “Effects of a Changing Climate” chapter in the Lake Champlain Management Plan Opportunities for Action.