So Great, So Fragile: Episodic series focuses on issues impacting the Great Lakes

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago is home to North America's most valuable resources, the Great Lakes. They are more than recreational resources, but also a trillion dollar economic powerhouse.

That's why ABC 7 partnered with National Geographic as they release a special cover story on "Saving Our Great Lakes."

Over the course of several weeks, we'll break down some of the challenges facing this precious natural resource.

Meteorologist Cheryl Scott kicks off our coverage of "So Great, So Fragile."

Our city is nestled along one of our nation's greatest treasures. The Great Lakes, though grand and majestic, are a fragile freshwater ecosystem. We are diving into the many issues impacting the lakes from climate to pollution. Experts across our region are keeping a watchful eye and presenting solutions to save our Great Lakes.

"All the great cities that are on the shores of the Great Lakes - Chicago and Toronto, Detroit, Cleveland, Toledo - I mean, what would they be without the Great Lakes?" said Nat Geo Contributing Writer Tim Folger.

The largest freshwater system on the earth. What would our cities do without Great Lakes? Journalist Tim Folger spent nearly two years traveling the Great Lakes region in search of the answer.

"What are the main issues facing Great Lakes. What are the big problems? And how can we solve them. What is the future of the Great Lakes?" Folger said. "Number one is definitely climate change and climate change, just plays a role in everything from the severe weather, the flooding the Chicago and other cities are seeing. I think the second one - and this was kind of a surprise to me - was agricultural pollution. Third, I would say, invasive species."

Folger's work and our partnership with National Geographic gave us the groundwork we needed to dive deep and talk to scientists, engineers and activists in and around Chicago to find and share solutions to the important issues, like climate change and severe storms.

"The relationship between climate change and extremes is maybe one of the most difficult things that scientists face," said Alan Hamlet, Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences at University of Notre Dame. "Projections say that we will see increasing extreme events here in the Midwest, extreme thunderstorms, extreme river flooding, and also heat and humidity, are all significant concerns."

To preventing pollution in and around the Great Lakes.

"In order to understand how human impacts alter freshwater ecosystems, for example, we need to monitor, in order to take that temperature through time and through space. In order to understand how healthy they are," said Jennifer Tank, Professor of Biological Sciences at Notre Dame.

And warding off invasive species.

"Stopping these species preventing them from getting in is really the only way that you can stop their impacts once they're here it's very difficult to turn back the clock," said Joel Brammeier, President & CEO of Alliance for the Great Lakes.

So now is our chance to create change.

"Any reasonable person might look at a problem like this and say, I can't do it, it's too big. How is this sort of thing solvable?" said Timothy Hoellein, Biology Assistant Professor at Loyola University Chicago. "I get that reaction. I think that's, that's a logical place to be. But I also think there's a lot of room to be optimistic."

Take the time to join us and rediscover the Great Lakes, especially our lake here at home, Lake Michigan, in our upcoming series "So Great, So Fragile."

Our episodes of "So Great, So Fragile" will be streaming on our ABC 7 App on Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Android TV.

You can check out the digital copy of National Geographic's story here.
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