Restoring the Black Swamp to Save Lake Erie

By William J. Mitsch
Sept. 4, 2014
 

 

The harmful algal blooms in western Lake Erie for the past few years and the toxic algae that caused Toledo Ohio to shut down the municipal water supply in August 2014 are symptomatic that there is something very wrong with the way we are managing our landscapes. Nutrients, especially phosphorus are pouring into this shallowest (18 m average) portion of the shallowest Great Lake, mostly as runoff from agricultural fields, are causing seasonal bursts in algal production with their accompanying problems of slimy aesthetics, dissolved oxygen depletion in bottom waters, fish kills, and toxicity. Read more at the following links:  

 

   

 

The Ohio Lake Erie Phosphorus Task Force has determined that excessive nutrients are “impacting an $11.5 billion tourism industry” on Lake Erie.

It is time to stop this problem and almost all agree on that. But most if not all of the options being considered are limited and/or inconsequential. To solve ecological problems of this scale, large-scale ecological solutions are needed. We are proposing restoration of some portion of the Great Black Swamp, which as late as the early 19th century was a 4,000 km2 extension of the western basin of Lake Erie, as a nutrient sink. The Great Black Swamp, once a combination of marshland and forested swamps, extended about 160 km long and 40 km wide in a southwesterly direction from Lake Erie. Its name comes from the rich, black muck that developed in the wetland. As with many other wetlands in Midwestern USA, state and federal drainage acts and actions led to the rapid drainage of this wetland, until little sign of it was left by the beginning of the 20th century. Only one small example of an interior forested wetland remains.
 

We have extensive experience in Ohio with wetlands that have been sinks for phosphorus and other nutrients for two decades or more. We also have experience in Florida where wetlands have been created to bring phosphorus concentrations down to near-rainwater quality to protect the Florida Everglades.

 

The ecological solutions to this problem of excessive nutrients are right in front of us.

blog
 

 

Approximate extend of the Black Swamp in northwestern Ohio. It is, for all intents and purposes, completely drained. With its loss many ecosystem services such as water quality improvement have been lost. (Diagram from Forsyth, 1960)

 09/04/2014Permanent link

Restoring the Black Swamp to Save Lake Erie  ()
 

Restoring the Black Swamp to Save Lake Erie By William J. MitschSept. 4, 2014    The harmful algal blooms in western Lake Erie for the past few years and the toxic algae that caused Toledo Ohio to shut down the

Comments (0)


Restoring the Black Swamp to Save Lake Erie

 Permanent link

Restoring the Black Swamp to Save Lake Erie

By William J. Mitsch
Sept. 4, 2014
 

 

The harmful algal blooms in western Lake Erie for the past few years and the toxic algae that caused Toledo Ohio to shut down the municipal water supply in August 2014 are symptomatic that there is something very wrong with the way we are managing our landscapes. Nutrients, especially phosphorus are pouring into this shallowest (18 m average) portion of the shallowest Great Lake, mostly as runoff from agricultural fields, are causing seasonal bursts in algal production with their accompanying problems of slimy aesthetics, dissolved oxygen depletion in bottom waters, fish kills, and toxicity. Read more at the following links:  

 

   

 

The Ohio Lake Erie Phosphorus Task Force has determined that excessive nutrients are “impacting an $11.5 billion tourism industry” on Lake Erie.

It is time to stop this problem and almost all agree on that. But most if not all of the options being considered are limited and/or inconsequential. To solve ecological problems of this scale, large-scale ecological solutions are needed. We are proposing restoration of some portion of the Great Black Swamp, which as late as the early 19th century was a 4,000 km2 extension of the western basin of Lake Erie, as a nutrient sink. The Great Black Swamp, once a combination of marshland and forested swamps, extended about 160 km long and 40 km wide in a southwesterly direction from Lake Erie. Its name comes from the rich, black muck that developed in the wetland. As with many other wetlands in Midwestern USA, state and federal drainage acts and actions led to the rapid drainage of this wetland, until little sign of it was left by the beginning of the 20th century. Only one small example of an interior forested wetland remains.
 

We have extensive experience in Ohio with wetlands that have been sinks for phosphorus and other nutrients for two decades or more. We also have experience in Florida where wetlands have been created to bring phosphorus concentrations down to near-rainwater quality to protect the Florida Everglades.

 

The ecological solutions to this problem of excessive nutrients are right in front of us.

blog
 

 

Approximate extend of the Black Swamp in northwestern Ohio. It is, for all intents and purposes, completely drained. With its loss many ecosystem services such as water quality improvement have been lost. (Diagram from Forsyth, 1960)

Posted by Blaine Menelik at 09/04/2014 01:56:32 PM | 


Comments

William Mitsch
Posted by:
Dr. William J. Mitsch 

Dr. William J. Mitsch has been Eminent Scholar and Director, Everglades Wetland Research Park, and Juliet Sproul Chair for Southwest Florida Habitat Restoration and Management at Florida Gulf Coast University since 2012. He is Professor Emeritus of Environment and Natural Resources at The Ohio State University where he taught from 1986 to 2012 and is Founding Director of the Olentangy River Wetland Research Park at OSU. He also holds courtesy or honorary faculty appointments at University of Florida, University of Notre Dame, Tartu University (Estonia), and Nanjing Forestry University (China). Dr. Mitsch received a Ph.D. in systems ecology in 1975 at University of Florida under H.T. Odum.

His research and teaching have focused on wetland ecology and biogeochemistry, wetland creation and restoration, ecological engineering and ecosystem restoration, and ecosystem modeling. He has authored or co-authored over 600 publications, reports, abstracts and books, including 4 editions of the popular textbook Wetlands. The fifth edition is written and will be published in 2015. He is editor-in-chief of the international journal Ecological Engineering and was Chair of the 1992 INTECOL Wetland Conference (900 delegates from 52 countries) and EcoSummit 2012 (1700 delegates from 73 countries), both held in Columbus USA. In August 2004 he was awarded, along with his Danish collaborator Sven E. Jørgensen, the 2004 Stockholm Water Prize by King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden for lifetime achievements in modeling, management, and conservation of lakes and wetlands. He is also awarded the Einstein Professorship from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (2010), the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Wetland Scientists (2007), and the Theodore M. Sperry Award from the Society for Ecological Restoration International (2005).

Dr. Mitsch has advised 72 graduate students to completion of their degrees, including 21 Ph.D. students at The Ohio State University. Thirteen of his former Ph.D. students and post-docs are teaching at colleges and universities around the world including Auburn University, University of Oklahoma, Texas A&M University, Morehead State University, George Mason University, Kenyon College, Corporación Universitaria Lasallista, Colombia, and Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China. He is currently advising 5 graduate students and one post-doc.

 

 


<< December 2014 >>
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 31      

Blog Roll

Archive

Recent Posts