Construction of dikes to limit water level changes from Lake Erie isolated the wetlands of Erie Marsh from the lake. Thanks to a restoration project implemented by The Nature Conservancy and Ducks Unlimited, the wetland and lake have been reconnected and the ecosystem is thriving.
Only a small portion of Lake Erie’s wetlands are still intact from before human development in the mid-1900s.
Erie Marsh Preserve is one of the few remaining wetlands of Lake Erie. Over half a century ago, construction of dikes cut the marsh off from the lake.
As part of a large-scale restoration project, the Conservancy installed underwater gates and passages to reconnect Erie Marsh with the lake. These unique gates keep aquatic invasive species out of the marsh, while allowing native fish to access previously unreachable spawning and foraging sites.
Another component of this restoration project was controlling invasive plants such as Phragmites. Phragmites poses a threat to both land and water, growing up to 15 feet tall and creating a monoculture that blocks out sunlight needed by smaller native plants.
Erie Marsh is known as a fantastic place to bird watch. The preserve lies directly in the spring migration route of many warblers, and also harbors good habitat for a variety of waterfowl and other wetland birds.
Water birds like the great blue heron hunt for fish and other prey in the marsh.
The wetland habitat of Erie Marsh provides good breeding habitat for the willow flycatcher.
The preserve also hosts some of Michigan’s few remaining colonies of American lotus and swamp rose-mallow, both listed as state-threatened species.
Ensuring that our wetlands are thriving is beneficial to humans as well as wildlife—it provides us with important natural services such as water purification and flood protection. Learn more about our work at Erie Marsh Preserve by watching this video or visiting the Erie Marsh webpage.