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Coastal Wetland Restoration

Katie Kahl -
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Coastal wetlands in relation to regional ecological and social values
Coastal wetlands provide habitat for birds, spawning fish, and a diversity of amphibians, reptiles, insects, and plants. They are the most biodiverse habitats in Lake Erie, and provide critical stopover and breeding habitat for local migratory birds. Wetlands are also crucial spawning habitat for fish, and serve as buffers for coasts in the face of erosion-inducing storm surge. Finally, wetlands filter nutrients and sediment out of runoff that otherwise threatens Lake Erie water quality. These functions are essential for maintaining the nutrient and material cycles of Lake Erie and for maintaining the health of its biota. Residents of the Western Lake Erie Basin depend on these wetland functions to improve water quality and help provide for recreation opportunities that support the regional economy. The robust fish and bird populations supported by coastal wetlands provide for a recreational fishing industry worth US$1.4 billion (2012), for commercial fisheries worth over $4.6 million (2012) on the U.S side and $33 million (2012) in Ontario, and for annual birdwatching revenues that are estimated at $26 million (2011). By filtering runoff, wetlands additionally contribute to the health of beach-goers and swimmers while simultaneously helping to maintain a supply of fresh drinking water to over 11 million people.  Coastal wetlands play a critical role in serving as buffers against storm waves, winds and flooding, all of which are increasingly due to intensifying storm events. The Western Lake Erie Coastal Conservation Vision Project recognizes the ecological and socioeconomic value of wetland habitats and uses this data layer to ensure that existing wetlands and areas with potential for wetland restoration are included in the analysis.

Coastal wetlands data layer
The Lake Erie Biodiversity Conservation Strategy (LEBCS) established a 2030 goal of increasing coastal wetland area, as measured in 2011, by 10%. The Western Lake Erie Coastal Conservation Vision Project analysis uses this data layer of current and potential coastal wetlands to determine optimal areas for restoration and creation of wetland habitat. This will aid in determining where to increase wetland habitat to achieve the LEBCS goal. The data layer shows present wetlands and potential locations for future wetland habitat along the Western Lake Erie coast from the Detroit River in Michigan to Sandusky, Ohio. The potentially restorable coastal wetlands data layer was created by combining data from four primary sources representing data on existing, former, or potential wetland areas.