Michigan researchers map Great Lakes coastal wetlands

Balance and variety are two words scientists often emphasize when talking about ecological systems.

A newly-published map of coastal wetlands shows how varied and connected Great Lakes wetlands are.

Laura Borgeau-Chavez worked on the project and said unlike other wetland maps, this one covers different areas of two countries.

The Environmental Protection Agency provided $850,000 for the project.

“The EPA stepped up and decided to go beyond that political boundary and map Canada as well. I think that everyone always ends at that political boundary which the imagery doesn’t end there, but the funding usually does,” Borgeau-Chavez said.

She said wetlands filter water run-off from agriculture and other land sources. She said this is one reason why it’s important to understand Great Lakes wetlands, and to do that, she said, scientists need data.

Researchers now have reliable information on things like invasive species on the map. She said the map shows where clumps of invasive plants live with 90 percent accuracy.

“There’s some problems with some invasive plants in the Great Lakes, particularly the phragmites. There’s an invasive form as well as a native form. And we’re able to map that invader because of it’s size and structure,”Borgeau-Chavez said.

The project mapped wetlands around the coasts of all the Great Lakes and more than 6 miles inland.

With so much detailed imagery, she said the map can be used in a lot of ways.

“It’s everything from transportation planners wanting to avoid where the wetlands are -making sure they’re not affecting the wetlands or avoiding them if they’re trying to do some road construction, to large scale planners that are trying to determine where they should go sample in the field,” Borgeau-Chavez said.

She said the data has been downloaded more than 100 times since publication.

ON THE WEB

Great Lakes Coastal Wetlands Map http://geodjango.mtri.org/coastal-wetlands/

Great Lakes Restoration Initiative http://greatlakesrestoration.us/