Western Lake Erie Basin Conservation Effects Assessment Project

CEAP projects assess how effective environmental conservation practices are at reducing the impacts of agriculture on the surrounding ecosystems to ensure that funding for these practices is distributed in a way that makes the most of available resources.

Nearly 70% of the Western Lake Erie Basin (WLEB) watershed is used for agricultural purposes, while developed areas like cities cover about 12% of the watershed. Forested land covers another 12% of the area, scattered in fragmented woodlots or along the riparian areas of some streams and rivers.
Map source: Maura O’Brien and Conor Keitzer (The Ohio State University).
Data source: USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service Cropland Data Layer, 2014.
Map not to be used without permission.

The Western Lake Erie Basin

The landscape of northwestern Ohio, northeastern Indiana and southern Michigan is marked mostly by agriculture, with farms of all sizes stretching across the Maumee River watershed and beyond.

Agriculture impacts watersheds because runoff from farm fields – from rain or snowmelt, for example – carries with it soil particles and nutrients from fertilizers. When that runoff enters local waterways, the sediment and nutrients are carried downstream and eventually end up in places like Lake Erie, but local waterways are impacted by those contaminants as well.

Suspended sediments make the water murky and can prevent fish from hunting for food effectively, and bottom dwellers like mussels prefer stony substrates rather than the fine clay surface created when sediment settles out of the water column.

Four Major Research Questions


Where do problematic materials like nutrients and sediments come from?


Where do problematic materials like nutrients and sediments enter the waterways?


How do they affect plant and animal life, both in the stream and along streambanks?


How can we reduce the impacts of nutrients and sediments on local streams and Lake Erie?

Latest Resources

Final Report: Quantifying the Potential Water Quality Benefits of Agricultural Conservation Practices for Stream Fish Conservation in the Western Lake Erie Basin

The final report from the Western Lake Erie Basin CEAP-Wildlife project is available for download here – just click on the image below.

Journal Article: Thinking outside of the lake: Can controls on nutrient inputs into Lake Erie benefit stream conservation in its watershed?

Abstract Investment in agricultural conservation practices (CPs) to address Lake Erie’s re-eutrophication may offer benefits that extend beyond the lake, such as improved habitat conditions for fish communities throughout the watershed. If such conditions are not explicitly considered in Lake

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