Wetland Ecology and Restoration

Tracking biodiversity in Lake Michigan’s interdunal wetlands


Tiffany Schriever, Lead principal investigator, Western Michigan University

Many of West Michigan’s coastal dunes house sensitive and complex wetland ecosystems. Despite supporting migratory birds and some of Michigan’s more precarious plant, animal, and insect species, these interdunal wetlands have not been thoroughly inventoried. Tiffany Schriever, an assistant professor of biological sciences at Western Michigan University, will lead a study of the distribution patterns of amphibians, reptiles, and aquatic macroinvertebrates in interdunal wetlands on Lake Michigan’s eastern shore. She will flag areas of high diversity and assess movement of organisms among neighboring wetlands to determine how communities are connected or isolated.

Project overview (PDF)

Final report (PDF)

Guiding shoreline restoration: Fish habitat choices based on flow signatures

Paul Webb, University of Michigan

Great Lakes bays and channels are ecologically valuable and provide nursery areas for many species of fish. Yet shoreline development creates fragments of large stretches of marsh, and human activities threaten the sensitive habitats. For example, waves driven onshore by boats are thought to pose a significant hazard to fish, especially in areas where seawalls are used. With Sea Grant funding, researchers conducted intensive observations of boat-induced and wind-induced wave storms on Douglas Lake in northern Michigan. The study formed the basis of a collaboration with computational fluid dynamics experts at the University of Minnesota. Together they are improving our ability to measure and visualize turbulence flows, creating a valuable tool for adaptive management and restoration of shorelines.

Project: R/GLF-53

Effects of Great Lakes marsh fragmentation on fish assemblages

Paul Webb and Jim Diana, University of Michigan

Shoreline development often interrupts stretches of marsh and isolates wetland areas from surrounding habitats. In this study, researchers measured the effects of fragmentation on marsh fish communities in northern Michigan’s Les Cheneaux islands. The research has contributed to an understanding of the magnitude of human impacts on coastal wetlands; this knowledge is essential for developing guidelines that minimize human impacts and guide restoration. The research also continues a program designed to help community residents monitor their own environment. Previously, the researchers designed a fish-based monitoring program for the Nature Conservancy. The results of the current project will be integrated with earlier work and presented to community members concerned with natural resource management in Les Cheneaux. These include the Nature Conservancy, Les Cheneaux Watershed Project, and The Economic Forum Natural Resources Task Force.

Project: R/GLF-51

Great Lakes restoration plan

Allegra Cangelosi, Northeast-Midwest Institute

Project: R/EP-10

Estimating nonmarket values for Great Lakes coastal wetlands

Michael Kaplowitz, Frank Lupi, and John Hoehn, Michigan State University

This research has strong implications for coastal wetlands protection policy in Michigan and other Great Lakes states. Using focus groups and a scientific advisory panel, a multidisciplinary team of researchers developed a survey that was sent to a statewide sample of 3,000 Michigan residents. Respondents indicated how much they valued different services provided by wetlands, including biodiversity, open space, improved water quality, fish habitat, waterfowl habitat, and non-game species habitat. Economic analyses will allow the researchers to identify priority wetland issues, estimate “willingness to pay,” and provide a sense of preferred coastal wetland protection programs.

Project: R/CW-16

Sedimentation and emergent plant decay in coastal wetlands

Robert Neely, Eastern Michigan University
Robert Sinsabaugh, University of Toledo/University of New Mexico

In this project, researchers studied the impact of sedimentation on coastal wetlands. At two Lake Erie wetlands — located at Winous Point in northern Ohio and Lake Erie Metropark in southeast Michigan — investigators assembled the first complete study of algal, fungal, and bacterial dynamics on decomposing plant litter. The project raised many questions regarding microbial processes and the rate of decomposition in different types of coastal wetlands influenced by differing hydrological conditions. The project is part of a larger research agenda to study plant decay, microbial community dynamics, and sedimentation in wetlands. Sea Grant funding has led to additional support from the National Science Foundation to investigate the exact mechanism that affects specific types of decomposition— a project that has supported five graduate and undergraduate students.

Project: R/CW-15

Habitat restoration during biocontrol of purple loosestrife

Gregory Zimmerman, Lake Superior State University
Doug Landis, Michigan State University

Since 1997, Sea Grant has supported biological control efforts to reduce purple loosestrife, an invasive plant that dominates many Michigan wetlands. Through the project, researchers found that biocontrol of purple loosestrife using Galerucella beetles, the plant’s natural enemy, is effective in reducing the number of purple loosestrife plants and promoting the growth of native plants. Entomologist Doug Landis found that the beetles have established large populations in three mid-Michigan locations and caused 100 percent defoliation of loosestrife in monitored sites. The research confirms that native plant communities re-establish after purple loosestrife density is reduced. Investigators have given research presentations to several groups in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and the project has resulted in a partnership with Ducks Unlimited Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources for biocontrol of purple loosestrife along the St. Marys River in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario.

Project: R/NIS-5