**The title, authors, and abstract for this completion report are provided below. For a copy of the completion report, please contact the GLFC via e-mail or via telephone at 734-662-3209**
Great Lakes Aquatic Protected Areas
2 Fisheries and Oceans Canada, 501 University Crescent, Winnipeg, MB, R3T 2N6
3 Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 867 Lakeshore Road, Burlington, ON, L7R 4A6
Fishes and their habitats receive various levels of protection at sites throughout the Laurentian Great Lakes. Ecosystem-level management strategies can use Aquatic Protected Areas (APAs) to buffer against over-exploitation and uncertainty in population assessments and ecological understanding, and to protect aquatic habitats. Given current levels of decline in freshwater fish biodiversity and the relative importance of habitat loss in the imperilment of many fish species in and around the Great Lakes, the appeal of precautionary ecosystem-level management is increasing. To determine the types and amounts of protection afforded to fishes and their habitats, we created an inventory of APAs in the Great Lakes and connected waters used by Great Lakes fishes, including sites in both Canada and the United States. Latitudinal trends in the size and number of APAs were apparent, with fewer, larger sites being established at higher latitudes in the basin. The relative effectiveness of different types of APAs for fish management and conservation was examined using time series data, and by comparing temporally coincident communities within and outside APAs. Fish biodiversity was typically higher within areas that permanently protect fish habitats, although a latitudinal trend in species richness was also apparent. Finally, a Gap Analysis was conducted to identify species and habitats that are currently under-represented within the current APA network. A draft theme paper was submitted to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission detailing the project results above and indicating research gaps and opportunities. Key research opportunities included developing new APAs and conducting Before-After Control-Impact analyses to identify factors that affect APA success. Additionally, the existing diversity of APAs in the Great Lakes provides an excellent opportunity to combine assessments of various individual APAs within a meta-analysis to similarly identify critical factors. A manuscript accepted by Aquatic Ecosystem Health and Management examined the use of APAs in large lakes throughout the world. APAs are used globally but the permanent protection of freshwater habitats is usually unintentional, occurring because of the protection of nearby cultural or recreational areas. The current use of APAs in the Laurentian Great Lakes is consistent with the global trend. However, the existing research opportunities and infrastructure provide timely opportunities for Laurentian Great Lakes research to reach a global audience and impact management strategies in diverse ecosystems.