Wetland Wild Lands – Protecting a Biodiversity Hotspot

Where can you find dragon’s mouth lady slipper, yellow lady slipper, showy lady slipper, purple fringed orchid, rose pogonia orchid, pitcher plants, sundews and more in a single wetland preserve?  Very few places anywhere in Michigan display the diversity of plant life found in the wetlands of the Grass River Natural Area (GRNA). That statement was recently backed up by a special biological survey.

Last December, with very little fan-faire or public acknowledgement, GRNA was identified as a rare biodiversity hotspot by Michigan’s leading authority on biodiversity and endangered and threatened species. The Michigan Natural Features Inventory (MNFI) has conducted an extensive biological survey of Grass River to inform management decisions at this special preserve.

Phyllis Higman

Phyllis Higman, a botanist and senior scientist with MNFI led the study to characterize natural communities and identify rare and endangered plants throughout the 1500 acre natural area. The study also provided a measure of the biodiversity of the area using a floristic index. According to Higman, Grass River is like an oasis of high-value natural communities with great statewide significance.

Importantly, Higman notes that the primary threats to this area are invasive species of plants. As yet, however, the impact of invasive species remains small.

“Grass River has an invaluable window of opportunity for early detection and response to invasive species,” Higman said.

James Dake

GRNA’s Education Director James Dake, says that the MNFI study provided critically important information about the natural communities and their distribution throughout the preserve. Using MNFI’s study, they are planning strategic interventions to control invasive plants and protect the amazing diversity of plant life at GRNA.

Watch this short video to learn more about GRNA’s incredible plant life and efforts to protect it.

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