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Techniques for restoration of disturbed coastal wetlands of the Great Lakes

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Abstract

A long history of human-induced degradation of Great Lakes wetlands has made restoration a necessity, but the practice of wetland restoration is relatively new, especially in large lake systems. Therefore, we compiled tested methods and developed additional potential methods based on scientific understanding of Great Lakes wetland ecosytems to providc an overview of approaches for restoration. We addressed this challenge by focusing on four general fields of science: hydrology, sedimentology, chemistry, and biology. Hydrologic remediation methods include restoring hydrologic connections between diked and hydrologically altered wetlands and the lakes, restoring water tables lowered by ditching, and restoring natural variation in lake levels of regulated lakes Superior and Ontario. Sedimentological remediation methods include management of sediment input from uplands, removal or proper management of dams on tributary rivers, and restoration of protective barrier beaches and sand spits. Chemical remediation methods include reducing or eliminating inputs of contaminants from point and non-pont sources, natural sediment remediation by biodegradation and chemical degradation, and active sediment remediation by removal or byin situ treatment Biological remediation methods include control of non-target organisms, enhancing populations of target organisms, and enhancing habitat for target organisms. Some of these method were used in three major restoration projects (Metzger Marsh on Lake Erie and Cootes Paradise and Oshawa Second Marsh on Lake Ontario), which are described as case studies to show practical applications of wetland restoration in the Great Lakes. Successful restoration techniques that do not require continued manipulation must be founded in the basic tenets of ecology and should mimic natural processes. Success is demonstrated by the sustainability, productivity, nutrient-retention ability, invasibility, and biotic interactions within a restored wetland.

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Wilcox, D.A., Whillans, T.H. Techniques for restoration of disturbed coastal wetlands of the Great Lakes. Wetlands 19, 835–857 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03161787

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