Use of historical and geospatial data to guide the restoration of a Lake Erie coastal marsh
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Historical and geospatial data were used to identify the relationships between water levels, wetland vegetation, littoral drift of sediments, and the condition of a protective barrier beach at Metzger Marsh, a coastal wetland in western Lake Erie, to enhance and guide a joint federal and state wetland restoration project. Eleven sets of large-scale aerial photographs dating from 1940 through 1994 were interpreted to delineate major vegetation types and boundaries of the barrier beach. A geographic information system (GIS) was then used to digitize the data and talculate the vegetated area and length of barrier beach. Supplemented by paleoecological and sedimentological analyses, aerial photographic interpretation revealed that Metzger Marsh was once a drowned-river-mouth wetland dominated by sedges and protected by a sand barrier beach. Extremely high water levels, storm events, and reduction of sediments in the littoral drift contributed to the complete destruction of the barrier beach in 1973 and prevented its recovery. The extent of wetland vegetation, correlated to water levels and condition of the barrier beach, decreased from a high of 108 ha in 1940 to a low of 33 ha in 1994. The lack of an adequate sediment supply and low probability of a period of extremely low lake levels in the near future made natural reestablishment of the barrier beach and wetland vegetation unlikely. Therefore, the federal and state managers chose to construct a dike to replace the protective barrier beach. Recommendations stemming from this historical analysis, however, resulted in the incorporation of a water-control structure in the dike that will retain a hydrologic connection between wetland and lake. Management of the wetland will seek to mimic processes natural to the wetland type identified by this analysis.
Key Wordsbarrier beach coastal marsh geographic information system GIS historical Lake Erie littoral drift management restoration Typha water levels
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