Native Species Returning to Indiana Dunes in Area of Concern

Now that cattails have been removed from the DuPont Natural Area, frogs and toads have been returning. Photo courtesy of Paul Labus/The Nature Conservancy.

Now that cattails have been removed from the DuPont Natural Area, frogs and toads have been returning. Photo courtesy of Paul Labus/The Nature Conservancy.

Project Summary: By removing invasive species from three sites in Northwestern Indiana adjacent to Lake Michigan, native plants and wildlife are returning.

Project name: Dune and Swale Restoration in the Grand Calumet Area of Concern

Location: East Chicago and Hammond, Ind.

Description: The ecosystem along the Grand Calumet River in Northwestern Indiana is diverse, with wetlands, dunes, swales, and streams, but historically was also the site of extensive industrial pollution. In 1987, the area was named as a Great Lakes Area of Concern—a designation given to highly polluted and degraded areas around the Great Lakes. Because of this designation and an increase in restoration funding thanks to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, substantial progress has been made to clean up the Grand Calumet Area of Concern. This massive undertaking involves many smaller projects, which together will lead to a restored Grand Calumet.

For example, three properties covering more than 200 acres which were infested with invasive plants. The natural dune and swale environment of the Ivanhoe Nature Preserve, DuPont Natural Area, and Beemsterboer Tract had been overrun with more than 105 aggressive or invasive species, such as common reed and purple loosestrife. Thanks to funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, crews cleared out invasives to make room for native species to return and habitat to thrive. The area can now be added to the growing list of areas in the Grand Calumet which have been restored.

Approximate cost of the project: $523,371

Cattails fill the wetland area in the DuPont Natural Area prior to restoration. Photo courtesy of Paul Labus/The Nature Conservancy.

Cattails fill the wetland area in the DuPont Natural Area prior to restoration. Photo courtesy of Paul Labus/The Nature Conservancy.

Resource challenge addressed: Invasive species crowding out native species, globally rare dune, swale and wetland habitat degraded

Key partners (public and private): Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, The Nature Conservancy, Indiana Department of Environmental Management, Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Save the Dunes, Lake County Parks

Types of jobs created: general laborers, biologists

Results and accomplishments: Crews removed invasive or aggressive species from more than 200 acres on three sites, including buckthorn, autumn olive, Asian bittersweet, Japanese knotweed, and purple loosestrife. Removing these species has allowed native species to return and on the Ivanhoe site, rich wetland swales are returning. At all sites, butterfly monitoring is ongoing, but core population numbers have remained stable. Frogs and toads are returning to the swale and wetland sites now that invasive species have been removed. In the DuPont Natural Area, Blanchard’s cricket frog, Fowler’s toad, and the American bullfrog have all returned. These are all species indicative of healthy, functioning habitat. The progress that has been seen at these sites could not have been accomplished without the collaborative efforts of all partners, or the progress being made in the Grand Calumet Area of Concern as a whole.

Originally published: February 12, 2016

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