We went on an amazing and educational field trip to Neal Marsh this morning with Dr. Donald Hey, Executive Director of Wetlands Research. Neal Marsh is a wetlands along the Des Plaines River that was reclaimed from a golf course/paintball battlefield.
Since its installation, Neal Marsh mitigation bank has evolved into a high quality aquatic resource, providing nesting and foraging areas for waterfowl and migratory birds dependent on wetlands and water features but also for frogs, snakes, turtles, spiders, bees, butterflies, and other aquatic insects. Additionally, larger mammals such as beaver, muskrat, coyote, and white tailed deer use the area for bedding and foraging. We saw a snake today!!!
The stream ecology and fish habitat have improved; the upstream reach of the Des Plaines River has reduced flows, allowing for sediments in the water to drop to the channel bottom. Light penetration increased and plants have begun to colonize the channel, utilizing nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen.
The bowfin and other sight feeding fish species populations increased, decreasing the number of common carp found in the Des Plaines River, thereby improving water quality, yet another crucial function of wetlands.
I will talk more about what we learned from Dr. Hey tomorrow!