Habitat plays an essential role in shaping aquatic communities yet limited information on the type and distribution of bottom features is available in the form of detailed maps. This is especially apparent in large systems where obtaining such information can be both expensive and challenging. Current maps of Lake Michigan substrate are very general and lack suitable detail of substrate composition and geographic extent of rocky areas. This limits our ability to link biological processes, such as fish spawning, to nearshore habitat and makes it difficult to target structurally complex habitats for sampling. We compiled substrate information gathered over 72 years for Illinois waters and incorporated it into a CIS framework to generate more complete documentation of sediment type and particle size distribution in southwestern Lake Michigan. Sediment data for 1682 sites were standardized to phi units; natural neighbor interpolation was used during GIS analysis to predict sediment type in areas lacking data. Predicted sediment values based on this interpolation had a significant positive relationship with observed sediment values (R2 = 0.92). Further, we linked existing fishery (yellow perch Perca flavescens) data with newly generated substrate information to identify potential associations between spawning site selection and habitat. Tagging data indicated that substrate quality affected the likelihood of yellow perch returning to their release sites in subsequent spawning seasons; higher fidelity was associated with larger, coarser substrate. The generated map will be a useful tool to enhance our understanding of habitat's importance in the Great Lakes, particularly when linked with fishery data.
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Vol. 36 • No. 4