Located just south of Lake Michigan in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, the Great Marsh provides crucial wetland habitat for a variety of native wildlife and plants. Migratory birds such as the sandhill crane rely on the Marsh for nesting sites. The Great Marsh also plays a critical role in filtering out nutrients and other pollutants from stormwater runoff, preserving the water quality of Lake Michigan. Yet despite its ecological importance the Great Marsh has been significantly altered by centuries of human activities. Developers in the 19th century constructed a series of ditches to drain the Great Marsh, converting much of its wetlands to other land uses such as agriculture and industry. The ditch system divided the Great Marsh watershed into three distinct watersheds, fragmenting its wetland habitat and disrupting its natural hydrology. This has reduced the ability of the Great Marsh to absorb stormwater, increasing the flow of polluted runoff into Lake Michigan and increasing basement floodings in nearby communities. Altering this ecosystem has also allowed trees and invasive plants such as hybrid cattail and reed canary grass to displace native plant communities, degrading the habitat quality of the Great Marsh. Now thanks to a grant from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the National Park Service is restoring the Great Marsh ecosystem. Read more here.
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