Northwest Lower Michigan has a diverse array of highly productive wetlands that provide essential habitat for the region’s wildlife as well as a whole host of important ecosystem services for humans. For example, healthy wetlands help: preserve water quality by slowing and filtering stormwater; prevent or limit flooding; reduce the impacts of droughts and extreme heat events; capture and store carbon; and in some cases, recharge groundwater.
Unfortunately, development, invasive species and climate change are all threatening the region’s wetland resources. As the long-term weather patterns in Northwest Michigan continue to change, ecologists are documenting a variety of direct and indirect impacts to our wetlands. Many wetland ecologists believe that warmer water temperatures and increased drought will likely accelerate the spread of invasive species. Native plants and animals will be more stressed, providing a window of opportunity for invasive species to become established. Changes in precipitation patterns are likely to alter the water budgets of most wetlands.
These are some of the reasons that Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Coastal Zone Management Program (CZMP) asked LIAA to identify options for helping Michigan’s local governments better preserve and protect their wetlands. Completed in 2014, this project included the development of several short videos that highlight the efforts of land managers, nonprofit groups and local governments to preserve and restore wetlands, providing useful how-to information as well.
The short video highlighted here, Voluntary Wetland Restoration, give an example of wetland restoration in Southwest Michigan involving cooperation between regional nonprofits and local units of government. Other videos published by LIAA describes a new approach to putting an economic value on the ecosystem services provided by a given wetland complex. This information can help guide efforts to protect and restore wetlands by helping to set priorities. Wetland assessment also suggest ways of sharing both restoration costs and benefits across several local government jurisdictions.
For more information about wetland preservation and restoration at the local level, please visit http://www.greatlakeswetlandadaptation.org/. This website offers several additional documents and videos that explain how Conservation Districts, regional planning entities and local governments can work together to assess the values and functions of their wetlands as well as funding options for preserving and protecting the most valuable wetlands.