Ecosystems of Nw Indiana

The area of Northwest Indiana and the Great Lakes is home to one of the world’s most incredible ecosystems.   Carved out by glaciers during the last ice age, the Great Lakes contain nearly 20% of the earth's fresh water while the basin supports 1/10th the population of the USA and 1/4 of the population of Canada.   The wealth of water and the glacially-sculpted landscape of the lake basin combine to support a tremendous abundance and diversity of life forms.   Biological diversity, or bio-diversity, is the total range of life on our planet or in a given ecosystem.   This paper looks into the history and ecology of the area,   as well as at those human activities that place its bio-diversity at risk.
The network of state and provincial Natural Heritage programs has identified 131 elements within the Great Lakes basin that are critically imperiled (22), imperiled (30), or rare (79) on a global basis. Of these elements 100 are individual species (49 plants, 21 insects, 12 mollusks, 9 fish, 5 birds, 3 reptiles, 1 mammal).   Of the 131 elements of global significance, nearly half (47%) occur exclusively or predominantly within the basin, or have many of their best examples here.   The global existence of these species depends upon their survival in the Great Lakes basin. They define the unique biological character of the Great Lakes ecosystem and underscore the importance of preserving its biological diversity.


When explorers first entered the basin in the 16th century, there were an estimated 60,000 to 117,000 Native Americans residing around the lakes. They lived throughout the basin, hunting, fishing and raising crops such as corn, squash, beans and tobacco. They lived together in small bands, and moved on when the resources became stressed.
The first permanent settlers in the area were attracted by the plentitude of fur-bearing animals.   In order to protect the fur trade, a series of forts and settlements were built on the channels that connected them...