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Aquatic landscape change, extirpations, and introductions in the Chicago Region

Abstract

Prior to European settlement, swamps, marshes, lakes, and streams were the major landscape features of the Chicago region. Much of this has been altered or lost in the past one-hundred-and-fifty years. We examined the changes in aquatic environments and fauna in Cook County, Illinois, using 1890–1910 and 1997–2017 as our focus intervals. The extents of aquatic features from historical topographic maps were imported into a GIS database and compared with the modern USGS National Hydrography Dataset. Historical and modern spatial data on aquatic animals were collected from museum collection and survey reports. Overall, the total area of wetlands and water bodies has decreased by about a third, while swamps and marshes have been drained or converted into lakes and ponds. Fifty-four of 80 historic molluscan species are not recently recorded, and 26 current species are not recorded in the historical data, including 6 considered to be invasive. Of 54 fish species in the historic data, 23 are no longer present and about 50% of the remaining species have undergone range reductions. Three out of 10 species of reptiles have disappeared. All 25 aquatic birds reported from the 1890–1910 period are still extant and an additional 13 have been reported in recent times, possibly due to increased collection effort. The Chicago region provides a case study of the impact of anthropogenic landscape change on biota. Large scale extirpations of native species have corresponded to a shift to a highly fragmented landscape of small ponds and reduced swamps and marshes.

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Acknowledgements

This paper was the result of a class project for the course Extinctions: Modern and Ancient taught by Roy Plotnick at the University of Illinois at Chicago. We would like to thank Dawn Roberts, Director of Collections, The Chicago Academy of Sciences and Ben Marks, Bird Collections Manager, Field Museum for their help.

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Correspondence to Roy E. Plotnick.

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Pasterski, M.J., Bellagamba, A., Chancellor, S. et al. Aquatic landscape change, extirpations, and introductions in the Chicago Region. Urban Ecosyst 23, 1277–1288 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11252-020-01001-6

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Keywords

  • Wetlands
  • Lakes
  • Urban
  • Extirpations
  • Chicago