Lake Winnipeg impacts

Commercial fishing boats on Lake Winnipeg

In this section, we explain key aspects of Lake Winnipeg

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Lake Winnipeg is the largest aquatic life support system in Manitoba, covering some 24,500 sq km. It sustains a complex food web and the largest commercial fishery west of the Laurentian Great Lakes. Our inland sea is Manitoba’s recreational playground and as the world’s third largest hydro reservoir, it energizes our economy. Like many natural systems, the lake is shaped by environmental forces and disturbed by human activities. Weather, climate, and geology regulate the growth and reproduction of its plants and animals.

But excess nutrients from urbanization, agriculture and economic development in the Lake Winnipeg watershed are impairing its water quality and, in spite of its size, Lake Winnipeg is susceptible to the impacts of climate change.

This natural wonder, reminiscent of an inland-sea, is the 10th largest freshwater lake in the world (1), easily visible from space as the province’s dominant geographical feature.

Lake Winnipeg is the largest remnant of giant Lake Agassiz that covered much of central Canada after glacial retreat about 10,000 years ago.

Lake Winnipeg arose as three separate basins that remained isolated during the mid-Holocene (6000 BP) when temperatures were 1-2°C warmer than during the 1950s. The lake took its present shape about 2500 BP when the northern and southern basins combined.

The essential message about Lake Winnipeg and climate change is simple: All life on earth is inseparably linked and inter-dependent. A single human breath is ultimately shared with the entire biosphere through our common atmosphere. That breath was rooted in the past and will be connected to the future. There is a link between the microscopic plankton in Lake Winnipeg and your automobile exhaust.

By: Alex Salki, Research Biologist and Science Program Coordinator, Lake Winnipeg Research Consortium Inc.

November 2007

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