Rehabiliting Lake Erie Wetlands Part One

from Wildlife Promise

Wetlands are a vital key to the water quality of the Great Lakes. They act as “filters” for pollutants or debris that might compromise our drinking water, beach health and the habitat for fish and wildlife.

Since human settlement in the region, Great Lakes wetlands have vanished as they are converted to agricultural land or other types of development.

As a response to declining water quality in the area the community of western Lake Erie is collaborating to bring their filters back. One step towards doing so is to rehabilitate wetlands adjacent to Lake Erie.

This field of weeds and grasses will soon become rich, diverse wetlands. Photo by Melinda Koslow, 2011.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative(GLRI), an investment to restore the Great Lakes, provides the means.

This GLRI project near the Ottawa Wildlife Refuge in Ohio is now set to rehabilitate 300+ acres of wetlands from fallow agricultural fields.

Since these fields are no longer used to farm, as they lie unused they act more like “tubs” and “drains” than “filters.”

This green color indicates nutrient pollution. Photo by Melinda Koslow, 2011.

When a large rain event happens (as they more often do) nutrients such as fertilizer and other debris from nearby farms or yards get carried by the rain and directly into Lake Erie.

A site manager on the project said:

The heavy rains we are experiencing in the springtime drain muck right out of the fields and into Lake Erie.

Algal in blooms Lake Erie. Photo by S. Bihn, 2011.

The health of Lake Erie and its community of people and wildlife pay the price. Algal blooms caused by nutrient pollution encourage the growth of harmful bacteria such as E.coli and Salmonella.

See the National Wildlife Federation report, Feast and Famine, to learn more about this issue.

Restored wetlands resulting from this project will provide cleaner water and beaches, and also habitat for numerous species of shorebirds, hawks, ducks, bald eagles, fish like walleye and perch, turtles, frogs and land mammals.

These photos show the Before. I am looking forward to posting the During and especially the After, likely including some bird and turtle sightings!

This blog is the first in a series to track this and other restoration projects throughout the Great Lakes region.

To learn more about Great Lakes ecosystems and how you can help visit the Great Lakes Regional Center.