Submergent Macrophyte Community Assessment

Higgins Lake Aquatic Plant Survey

2017 and 2018 Results

Prepared by: Dr. Mark Luttenton, Biology Department and Annis Water Resources Institute, Grand Valley State University

Executive Summary

Higgins Lake is an iconic example of the lake systems located in Michigan’s northern lower-
peninsula. Lakes in this region were formed as Pleistocene glaciers retreated, leaving behind large ice blocks embedded in deep deposits of sand and gravel. The sand/gravel surface geology provides for active groundwater flow as well as expansive shallow areas, ideal for recreational activities.
However, Higgins Lake, like all lakes in the region, has been broadly impacted by human
activity. Beginning with the logging era, northern Michigan lakes have experienced a continual
addition of sediment and nutrients, particularly phosphates. Work completed on nearby Douglas Lake identified a distinct shift in conditions during the early 1900s. The presence of charcoal in the associated sediment horizon indicates that the shifts occurred during the end of the logging era when large wildfires swept across the region.
More recently, phosphate, most likely derived from residential septic systems and transported via groundwater to the shallow areas of the lake, has steadily increased since the late 1990s (Martin, Kendal, and Hyndman). The addition of nutrients drives many of the biological process that are symptomatic of the process of eutrophication; increasing algal growth with a shift toward blue-green algae, increased macrophyte growth, particularly aggressive invasive species such as Eurasian milfoil, and the accumulation of organic sediments.
In Higgins Lake, the response by aquatic plants to nutrient addition may be amplified by
improved water clarity resulting from the introduction of zebra mussels. The combination of
factors may allow for increased plant biomass and the expansion of plant beds into deeper
regions of the lake.
The purpose of this study was to develop baseline data on the current distribution and abundance of aquatic plants in Higgins Lake. This preliminary report provides a summary of plant surveys that were conducted along 21 transects located around the lake.

Read The Rest

View the full study here: Higgins Lake Aquatic Plant Survey 2017 and 2018