Prior to European settlement, the The aquatic plant, “folle avoine,” A LONG THE S HORELINE shoreline of the Huron to Lake of which American geographer William Erie corridor looked very different Darby wrote is wild rice (Zizania than it does today. Extensive Great aquatica) and once was in the marshes skirted the shoreline, ’s coastal marshes. Wild rice is very especially along Lakes St. Clair and sensitive to changes in water flow. As a he natural beauty of the region lying between Erie. Upland from these marshes result of major shoreline alterations, it no there was generally hardwood swamp longer thrives. In fact, today it is listed as on poorly drained clay soils and a threatened plant species in . Lakes Erie and Huron has been recorded by all beech-maple on better-drained sites. Tallgrass and marshes are dynamic the early travelers, with words of admiration. systems. Since their topography is

grew in the lakeplain’s sandy areas. ALLEN CHARTIER almost flat, they are highly influenced Many of the islands were low, and Great Lakes Coastal Marsh by fluctuating Great Lakes water The American lotus (Nelumbo lutea) is a floating plant of coastal marshes in the “T Great Lakes coastal marsh is a levels. This is especially true in the St. Clair River Delta where a lower River and western . some of the river margins scarcely above the ecosystem distinct to the Great Lakes. Its exotic-looking white blossoms inspire the It is the most productive natural change of only a few inches Lotus Garden Club of Monroe, which works water. But all was green and peaceful. Dark system in Earth’s temperate zones, greatly affects the size and to help ensure there is good habitat for this providing habitat for mammals, position of . In threatened plant species in Michigan.

extended to the river edge, and many ERNIE BERGEN waterfowl, shorebirds, songbirds, high-water years, strong reptiles, amphibians, fish, insects, on-shore winds produce s a tall monarch of the wood waved its gigantic crustaceans and many plant species. ufficient wave action to uproot


CORVUS ART plants and cause erosion. In arms over the brink, and was reflected in the “All the rivers and creeks enter from low-water years, marsh habitat both sides, through low, swampy becomes more abundant. land covered with folle avoine, or Changing water levels often glassy surface which not or flood ever wild oats. This aquatic grain, though cause dramatic shifts in thus named, is nevertheless essential- vegetation in a short period disturbed. The marshes were luxuriant with wild ly different from either oats or rice; of time, shaping the abundance and no vegetable that I ever seen, has a diversity of habitat available to wildlife. DAN RAWLYK DAN rice that furnished a sumptuous repast to a great more beautiful appearance than is Mudflats appear in the shallows of exhibited by the immense marshes, coastal marshes when the water is low.

variety of birds and waterfowl, and even a welcoming supply covered with folle avoine; it is now Mudflats provide habitat for shorebirds MARIE BOYLE in blossom, exhaling a peculiarly that stop to rest and feed during The large pink flowers of the swamp rose to the Indians. Occasional villages and bark wigwams pleasing fragrance.” migration. They use their long, pointed mallow (Hibiscus moschetos) grace the fringes of coastal marshes. in –WILLIAM DARBY, 1819, bills to probe exposed soil for insects enlivened the shore, surrounded with gardens and cornfields, DESCRIBING THE AND MICHIGAN and other invertebrates. Michigan is a good place to view them during SHORELINES ON THE . the summertime.

and the most elevated points were crowned with burial GREAT LAKES COASTAL MARSH SYSTEM grounds. Most of the shores had high banks and were

covered with timber.” –Bela Hubbard, a historical address in 1879 marking the bicentennial of the discovery of Lake St. Clair by LaSalle in 1679.

(Above left) The great egret (Ardea alba) hunts in the shallows of the coastal marshes throughout the to Lake Erie Corridor, feeding on fish, frogs, small mammals and birds. The great egret nested on Stony Island in the Detroit River from the late-1940s to 1978, but abandoned ANNE C. HAMMERSCHMIDT ANDREW FOOT that site due to high water and industrial (Left) Brighton Beach in West Windsor, Ontario is one of the last natural shorelines on the Detroit River. (Right) Twenty activity.(Above) Dawn at WILDLIFE SERVICE CANADIAN SOURCE: percent of the Canadian shoreline and 87 percent of the Michigan shoreline along the Detroit River have been modified with the mouth of the Thames bulkheading and other shoreline hardening structures. As a consequence, in Michigan, only three percent of the original The Great Lakes coastal marsh system provides a wide range of habitats: mudflats, emergent and submergent wetlands, wet meadows, and and shrub River at Lake St. Clair. coastal wetlands remain in the Detroit River. swamps. Each zone is occupied by a different plant community, each of which supports a different animal community.


Reptiles of the region are snakes and wetlands where they feed, and the mortality rates. Overall, reptile and turtles. Amphibians are frogs, skinks, uplands where they nest, is critical. amphibian populations are declining newts and salamanders. Both reptiles Unfortunately, roads and development due to habitat destruction, pollutants between their nests; they breed in and amphibians rely on water and land have fragmented habitats and disrupted that cause birth defects, and nest loose colonies in shallow marshes that habitats for survival. For turtles, the this connection. Wildlife is forced predation by and other are an equal mix of open water and connection between the aquatic to cross roads, resulting in high suburban wildlife. marsh vegetation.

This species was once an abundant breeder in the Lake Huron to Lake Erie Corridor. Early Detroit ornithologist Bradshaw Swales (1875-1928) described them as nesting in “immense numbers” along the Detroit River. But from 1966 to 1996, numbers of black terns declined by 61 percent in JOHN SCHAFER JOHN . Today, black terns ith its highly social are a species of special concern nature and striking in Michigan and Ontario. JOHN SCHAFER JOHN appearance, the black tern espite being the size of (Chlidonias niger) is Loss and degradation of inland wetlands JOHN SCHAFER JOHN SCHAFER JOHN Wcharacteristic of biologically rich are the major causes of declining black a chicken, the king rail The eastern fox snake (Elaphe vulpina gloydi) lives in coastal marshes and The (Clemmys guttata) has distinctive yellow dots on (Rallus elegans) is one of marshlands. During the nesting season, tern populations. Invasions of purple associated wet meadows. This harmless snake may have a copper-colored its head and shell that make it easy to identify. This animal inhabits the most secretive marsh it is found in inland marshes in much loosestrife and other exotic plant species head and will vibrate its tail when disturbed; thus it is often mistaken clean, shallow waters with a soft bottom, such as sedge marshes, Dbirds and is not often seen. The king of northern North America. It spends that alter the composition of marshland for a venomous snake and needlessly killed by fearful people. Historical sphagnum seepages, and fens. They feed on insects, mollusks, crayfish, vegetation may also play a role. and ongoing habitat destruction and persecution have greatly reduced and other aquatic organisms. Historically, this small, secretive aquatic rail nests throughout most of the the winter along ocean coasts in the Environmental contaminants also Eastern fox snake numbers. turtle was fairly common in its specialized habitats throughout eastern U.S. and is a permanent tropics, from central through southern Michigan and Ontario; however, illegal collection for resident of the south. The Lake northern . Unlike other may have negative impacts, as some the pet trade and habitat loss now make it rare. Huron to Lake Erie Corridor lies species of terns, which are highly marshes that appear to be appropriate within the northern edges of its colonial, black terns prefer some space habitat are not occupied by these birds. The Eastern spiny softshell range. King rails were abundant in turtle (Apalone spinifera the area around 1900, especially spinifera) has a distinctive along the Detroit River and Lake olive colored shell that is Erie’s western shore. It built nests flat and leathery looking. on shrubs or vegetation clumps that It lives in rivers, lakes, grew in shallow areas there. But he least bittern (Ixobrychus and marshes that have exilis) is the smallest member soft-bottoms and can be king rail populations have declined seen basking on logs, rocks, severely following wetland losses of the heron family. It breeds riverbanks, and sandbars. throughout their range. In addition, throughout much of the eastern lead poisoning and pesticides may TU.S. and Ontario. Winters are spent in limit rail populations in otherwise southern Florida and , the West suitable habitats. Indies and parts of Mexico and . It nests in freshwater or King rails are endangered in both brackish wetlands with tall, dense JAMES H.JAMES HARDING Michigan and . Fewer than vegetation. Semi-open cattail and JOHN SCHAFER JOHN 10 pairs were estimated to exist in bulrush marshes are ideal habitat. Michigan in the mid-1980s. sources agree populations have declined Walpole Island still supports a The least bittern was once a common to the point that the least bittern is now population of these rare birds. summer resident in southern Michigan rare. The main cause is habitat loss, with and Ontario, notably Grassy Island in additional pressures from and the Detroit River, and on , predators such as . Least bitterns Michigan. Population trends are difficult are considered threatened in Michigan to assess because this secretive species is and Canada, although they continue to JAMES H.JAMES HARDING not adequately surveyed, but most inhabit Walpole Island’s coastal marshes.

44 EXPLORE OURNATURALWORLD: A BIODIVERSITYATLAS OF THELAKE HURON TOLAKE ERIE CORRIDOR| ALONG THESHORELINE Waterfowl THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DIVING AND DABBLING DUCKS Coastal marshes are very important as feeding and resting areas for migrating waterfowl such as geese, swans and dabbling and diving ducks. Dabbling ducks have broad, flat bills that they use to feed on plants and insects in water less than one foot

(30.5 cm) deep. They prefer shallow SCHAFER JOHN areas of rivers, lakes and ponds. Dabbling The wood duck (Aix sponsa) is considered ducks include the common mallard and to be one of our most beautiful native ducks. American wigeon. It was common to the region in the late 1800s, and then became rare. Today, this Diving ducks have stout bodies, short species has made a comeback due to hunting necks and tails, and large paddle feet. regulations and nest box programs. They dive to feed on fish, mussels, insects and aquatic plants. They prefer the deeper, open water areas of large

Common Name Scientific Name

Wood duck Aix sponsa

Northern pintail Anas acuta CANADIAN WILDLIFE SERVICE American wigeon Anas americana This illustration shows the differences between diving and dabbling ducks. Northern shoveler Anas clypeata Green-winged teal Anas crecca Blue-winged teal Anas discors The mallard (Anas platyrhyn- chos) is the most abundant L. FRANCIS DOROTHY Mallard duck Anas platyrhynchos species of duck in the Lake The strong current and heated-water discharges Black duck Anas rubripes Huron to Lake Erie Corridor. often keep portions of the Corridor’s waters Gadwall Anas strepera Here, mallards are shown from freezing during winter. Large numbers Aythya affinis congregating along of waterfowl concentrate in the areas of open Redhead Aythya americana the shoreline of the St. Clair water. Mute swans (Cygnus olor), shown in JOHN SCHAFER JOHN Ring-necked duck Aythya collaris River with the Blue Water front, have become common in the region since Bridge in the distance. The tundra swan (Cygnus columbianus), native to North America, migrates about 4,000 mi their introduction from in 1919. Like Greater scaup Aythya marila (6,000 km) a year between its breeding areas in the and its wintering habitats in western many introduced animals they displace certain Canvasback Aythya valisinera and eastern North America. The open waters and coastal marshes of the Corridor are important native species and over-graze vegetation. Bufflehead Bucephala albeola resting areas during migration. Once known as the “whistling swan” because of its distinctive The knob on their beaks is the feature that Common goldeneye Bucephala clangula melodious voice, the tundra swan is now rare compared with the mute swan. distinguishes them from native tundra swans. Long-tailed duck Clangula hyemalis Hooded merganser Lophodytes cucullatus TREVOR FLOYD TREVOR Red-breasted merganser Mergus serrator Ruddy duck Oxyura jamaicensis lakes and rivers. Common diving in large numbers around stormwater Snow goose Chen caerulescens ducks include the canvasback, scaups detention ponds, golf courses and Branta canadensis and redheads. public parks. Tundra swan Cygnus columbianus Mute swan Cygnus olor Geese have heavier bodies and longer Swans are the largest and most necks. They have strong legs, well-suited graceful waterfowl. Their feathers are The Lake Huron to Lake Erie Corridor’s coastal marshes are frequented by at least to walking, and prefer to graze on completely white and they have long 24 different species of waterfowl during grass and grain in farm fields far away necks which they use to feed on migration. Some species, such as northern pintail and common goldeneye, are present only from water. submerged vegetation. Although the during migration. Others, such as the mallard tundra swan is native to the Corridor

duck and Canada goose, are present The most recognizable of these is the SHELLEY M. HICKS throughout the year. region, the introduced mute swan is Canada goose, whose population has now much more common. Canada geese (Branta canadensis) are abundant in the Lake Huron to Lake Erie Corridor. Large numbers can be seen in open waters and congregating increased to nuisance status, congregating on mowed grounds. Unlike some other animals, they have thrived in manicured landscapes.


In 1850, early surveyors noted that Wallaceburg, Ontario was a potential center of regional commerce. However, 1937 it was also under the blighting influence of the “immense quantities of marsh and swamp within convenient reach.”* This quote reflects the attitudes of many early European settlers who considered the vast Great Lakes marshes JOHN SCHAFER JOHN as an obstacle rather than a resource. The muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) The settlers went to great lengths is a common wetland mammal. Muskrats to drain and fill wetlands. feed on the rhizomes and tender bases of cattails, arrowhead and other aquatic Urban growth, industrialization, vegetation along with the occasional crayfish agriculture and waterfront development and clam. They carry their dinner to feeding platforms constructed of vegetation where they have dramatically reduced the acreage eat the food they prefer and discard the rest, of Great Lakes marshes along the leaving traces of their activity. Lake Huron to Lake Erie Corridor. Furbearers of the Marsh Where coastal wetlands once reigned, steel break walls now prevail. The first European settlers of the Lake The Detroit River has lost 97 percent Huron to Lake Erie Corridor were of its coastal marshes. Similar losses French trappers and explorers who were occur along the shorelines of Lake attracted by the abundant fur-bearing St. Clair and the St. Clair River. animals that lived in coastal marshes. ST. CLAIR COUNTY METROPOLITAN PLANNING COMMISSION METROPOLITAN CLAIR COUNTY ST. The fur trade was the first commerce *1965. Sydenham Valley Conservation Report. of the region, based on the great CORNELIS LARRY Department of Energy and Resources Management, Conservation Authorities Branch. numbers of beaver, muskrat, mink Today, beavers (Castor canadensis) commonly live along the more remote treed watercourses , Ontario. and river otter. It is thought that the of the region. This beaver dam is located within a hardwood swamp in Bickford Oak Woods beaver played an important role in in Lambton County, Ontario. shaping the local landscape of Detroit. whole surface. Dry ridges intervene, disappeared from this region about This account given by Bela Hubbard mostly sandy, and producing the beginning of the present century. 1999 published in 1887 provides insight to the a scattered growth of white and yellow Is there another instance where the region before the fur trade locally . The broader marshes, which operations of a single animal have extirpated the beaver. often extend several , so changed the face of “Illustrations of this beaver-made country are occasionally varied by a country, over are numerous enough in our immediate low islands, containing a extensive areas? For vicinity. In a semi-circle of twelve miles heavy growth of timber. the region of which around Detroit, having the river for base, I treat is but a sample These marshes have a and embracing about 100,000 acres, fully of many others, soil of black muck and one-fifth part consists of marshy tracts or stretching through the fibrous peat, averaging , which had their origin in the border counties of two or three feet in work of the beaver. A little further west, eastern Michigan, depth, and often much nearly one whole township, Wayne County and about the more. This is underlaid JENSEN HOLLY is of this character. tributaries of the by clay, with a thin Saginaw…The beavers The lands referable to this origin occupy stratum of sand or gravel and Indian hunters and Canadian intervening. Wild hay and cranberries not the lowest, but elevated and slightly trappers have alike disappeared. Along Lake St. Clair’s southern and rolling tracts. Numerous small streams have on the open portions constitute a natural Other furs, or substitutes for them, western shores, very few wetlands have their sources in these prairies, or meander product of considerable value; other have superseded their value to the survived after years of residential, through them. These, flowing with little portions being covered by tamarack . dealer, and the skins are but rarely recreational and commercial development. descent through the lower connecting levels, met with in this whole region, Man-made are now a common The beaver dams are still discernable. feature of the shoreline. These photographs, are ramified in every direction, and form a which once yielded little other one taken in 1937 and the other in 1999, Their builders, so the Indians say, network or connected chain through the marketable product.” U.S. SERVICE GEOLOGICAL illustrate dramatic changes.

48 EXPLORE OURNATURALWORLD: A BIODIVERSITYATLAS OF THELAKE HURON TOLAKE ERIE CORRIDOR| ALONG THESHORELINE ALONG THESHORELINE| EXPLORE OURNATURALWORLD: A BIODIVERSITYATLAS OF THELAKE HURON TOLAKE ERIE CORRIDOR 49 In the distance, great egrets perch on a sumac grove in Canada’s St. Clair National Wildlife Area, located in the eastern basin of Lake St. Clair. The Canadian Wildlife Service manages this 289-ha site. Its marshes and shallow water habitat are interspersed with sandy beach ridges formed by wave action. The marshes provide excellent waterfowl habitat and are an important resting point for migrating waterfowl during spring and fall. More than 30 species of wetland-dependent birds breed in the National Wildlife Area, including the least bittern and Virginia rail. The importance of this marsh to bird life has been recognized through its designation as a “RAMSAR” site, meaning it has wetlands listed under the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat.

Today’s Coastal Marshes

Despite significant changes to the shoreline, coastal marshes persist in the Lake Huron to Lake Erie Corridor, particularly in the St. Clair River Delta and the islands of the lower

Detroit River. The St. Clair River, with DERR LEROY its relative straightness, uniform width and depth, and fast current, affords little St. John’s Marsh in Algonac, Michigan, provides important stop-over habitat for migratory birds. In the foreground is giant reed grass, (Phragmites australis), an invasive wetland plant that now dominates many marshes in the Great Lakes system. It degrades the quality of marshland habitat by

opportunity for wetland growth. ERNIE BERGEN crowding out native wetland plants that are more beneficial to wildlife. Once established, it is very difficult to control and eradicate. The largest contiguous tract of coastal wetlands in the Great Lakes, encompassing more than 25,000-ac (10,000-ha), is found on Walpole Island. Ninety percent of today’s coastal wetlands in the Detroit River are south of Grassy Island. Dike systems now are used to manage many of the Corridor’s largest coastal wetlands, including Pointe Mouillee State Game Area in Lake Erie as well as portions of Walpole Island and the St. Clair Flats State Game Area. Using dikes, water levels within the marshes can be regulated to maximize the growth of BRUCE MANNY


to waterfowl. DEBORAH MAIORANO RIVER INITIATIVE A coastal marsh along western Lake Erie.

Pointe Mouillee State Game Area is located where the empties into Lake Erie. Humbug Marsh is the last remaining natural coastal wetland on the U.S. side of the Detroit River. The one- (1.6-km) stretch of undeveloped shoreline Pointe Mouillee means “wet point” in French. is a nesting, resting and feeding island for many resident and migratory birds species. Shorebirds, raptors, migratory songbirds, waterfowl (even the common It has been known by this name since 1749 ) make use of this unaltered, thus special, habitat. The diversity of birds, fish and insects found in the Humbug Marsh is the highest of any site studied when French explorers first appreciated in the Detroit River. It is an important spawning area for that migrate from Lake Erie. Because of its unparalleled natural resource values,

its vast delta and wetlands. TRISH BECKJORD the recently acquired Humbug Marsh has become a centerpiece of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge.


United States Canada 1. St. Clair Flats State Game Area 9. Point Pelee National Park 2. St. John’s Marsh 10. St. Clair National Wildlife Area 3. Pointe Mouillee State Game Area 11. Tremblay Beach Conservation Area 4. TNC Erie Marsh Preserve 12. Ruscom Shores Conservation Area 5. Sterling 13. Holiday Beach Conservation Area 6. Metrobeach Metropark 14. Lighthouse Conservation Area 7. Lake Erie Metropark 15. Big ‘O’ Conservation Area 8. Belle Isle ALLEN CHARTIER

Lake Erie Metropark has kept much of the Detroit River BOHLING MARY and northwestern portions of Lake Erie Lake Erie Metropark is a 1,600-ac (Above Left) A flock of broad-winged hawks (640-ha) park near Gibraltar, ice-free in winter. Many waterfowl passes over the Lake Erie Metropark. Michigan, owned by the Huron- stay in the open waters, making the Clinton Metropolitan Authority. Metropark an ideal location for (Above Right) A mute swan forages among spiky viewing waterfowl during the winter. blue flowers of pickerel weed (Pontedaria Situated at the mouth of the Detroit cordata) that bloom throughout the marshes River at Lake Erie, the unique Bald eagles often fish along the of the Lake Erie Metropark. location contains an array of Metropark’s shoreline. Most notably, habitats, including Lake Erie a pair recently made its first nesting Raptor Research shoreline, coastal marshes, islands attempt in Wayne County in 100 years. is a non-profit organization and oak , which are that monitors and counts the hawks home to a wide variety of wildlife. The Metropark is best known for tens that fly through Lake Erie Metropark Migrating raptors from northern and eastern of thousands of raptors, or birds-of-prey, and Pointe Mouillee State Game Area Canada are reluctant to cross large bodies of FALL HAWK MIGRATION Since the 1930s, warm-water effluent that can be seen passing overhead during each fall. The 10-year annual average water. Therefore they funnel down the corridor, discharged from upstream industries their annual fall migration. for their counts is more than 225,000. concentrating their numbers as they cross the comparatively narrow Detroit River near the western end of Lake Erie. Holiday Beach Conservation Area fall hawk migration. As many as 96,000 The Holiday Beach Conservation raptors have been seen migrating Area is a 525-ac (212-ha) park over the conservation area in a single managed by the Essex Region day! The numerous eagles, hawks, Conservation Authority. It is located falcons, and vultures flying overhead on the of Lake Erie near are best viewed from the three-story the mouth of the Detroit River in hawk tower shown at the right. , Ontario. This The Holiday Beach Migration conservation area offers the natural Observatory is a non-profit beauty of the Lake Erie shoreline as volunteer organization that studies well as trails that lead through fall raptor migrations by counting meadows, woods, coastal and banding hawks at the marsh and a pine plantation. conservation area. Observers strive Like the Lake Erie Metropark, to record exact numbers of all the unique geography of Holiday migrant bird species that fly over ROBERT STEWART ROBERT Beach provides tremendous the site during daylight hours from late-August to early December. The Hawk Tower at the Holiday Beach opportunities to view the annual Conservation Area. MICHIGAN NATURE ASSOCIATION MICHIGAN NATURE


The rose-breasted The broad-winged SONGBIRDS are known for their RAPTORS include 17 different grosbeak Bird migration is one hawk (Buteo perching behavior and musical song. (Pheucticus types of eagles, falcons, hawks and platypterus) is Types of songbirds include thrushes, ludovicianus) of the most incredible Migration is often the most vultures that either reside in or pass common in warblers, sparrows and finches. The is aptly named, phenomena in nature. perilous part of a bird’s annual annually through the Lake Huron deciduous forests with a large, of Eastern North species featured on these pages nest in cycle. It is estimated that half to Lake Erie Corridor. Lake Erie stout bill that it of all birds flying south for America during the the Lake Huron to Lake Erie Corridor. uses to glean insects Many bird species travel thou- Metropark and the Holiday Beach summer. In the fall,

JIM SIMEK, NATURE’S IMAGES JIM SIMEK, NATURE’S the winter will not live to Many species throng to the University from trees and open sands of miles annually between Conservation Area are excellent ALLEN CHARTIER these hawks leave their nesting and wintering areas. migrate north in the spring. of Michigan-Dearborn Campus a wide variety of seeds. The male has a stunning places to view raptors during their in huge concentrations for Central and South appearance and sings a beautiful song similar While routes vary among species Causes of America. In 1999, the Southeast Michigan Natural Area, where the spectacular fall migrations. to that of the robin. These birds consume large and even ages of individual birds, death include: bad weather; Raptor Research Network counted more than a Bird Observatory studies the numbers of grasshoppers, caterpillars and there are four general migratory predation; collisions with half million broad-winged hawks passing over importance of urban natural areas beetles when they can find them, thereby helping windows, buildings, autos Lake Erie Metropark during the fall migration. to control local insect populations. They nest flyways in North America. The to birds. This nearly 300-ac (120-ha) primarily in open deciduous woodlands in Lake Huron to Lake Erie and communication towers; The northern harrier unique green space is a natural area central and southern Canada east of the and the loss or deterioration Corridor is located at the (Circus cyaneus) Rockies, the , donated by the estate convergence of the Atlantic and of places to stop, rest and refuel is a species of special and the Mid-Atlantic States. Rose-breasted to the and Mississippi Flyways. The approxi- (known as stopover sites). concern in Michigan. grosbeaks winter in southern Mexico through Populations of many migrant It once was Wayne County to ensure its to northern South America. mate north-south orientation of common in southeast preservation as an urban-based the Corridor makes it an impor- birds, particularly those that ALLEN CHARTIER tant migratory flyway for more migrate to the tropics, have Michigan, but has wildlife habitat. The yellow warbler The sharp-shinned hawk (Accipiter striatus) been in decline.

been in decline. SCHAFER JOHN (Dendroica than 90 species of birds. is one of the most-traveled hawks. It breeds Harriers require petechia) is one in northern forests of Canada and open and associated wetlands. The gray catbird of the most and flies south to Panama for the winter. Their favored prey is the meadow vole, which (Dumetella common and During migration these hawks can be seen is usually abundant in habitat. carolinensis) widely distributed flying in large flocks. They can often be The main reason for the northern harrier’s frequents shrubby, warblers in North spotted lurking around backyard bird feeders decline is habitat loss. Other causes include abandoned fields America, nesting in search of unwary songbirds. human disturbance, predation and pesticides. that are in the early across much of the IMAGES JIM SIMEK, NATURE’S stages of succession. . It winters in Central and South Widespread in America. They often are victims of the The snowy owl (Nyctea scandiaca) is a top North America, IMAGES JIM SIMEK, NATURE’S brown-headed cowbird (Molothrus ater), which predator of the arctic tundra in northern catbirds winter along the Atlantic and lays its eggs in other birds’ nests. The host Canada and Alaska. Occasionally it will Gulf coasts and in the . Although parents are left to raise cowbird young, usually winter in the Corridor, where it occupies closely related to the mockingbird, catbirds at the expense of the hosts’ own eggs and chicks. open fields, shorelines and other locations don’t often mimic other species. They have Yellow warblers have developed a strategy to that resemble the treeless habitat of the a complicated, garbled song and a very combat this parasitism by building a new nest tundra. This photograph was taken at cat-like call. floor over the cowbird eggs, and restarting DTE Energy’s Fermi II Nuclear the nesting process. THE MISSISSIPPI FLYWAY THE ATLANTIC FLYWAY ENVIRONMENT CANADA ENVIRONMENT CANADA TERRY C. OTT TERRY Power Plant near Monroe, Michigan.

MONARCH SHOREBIRDS have some of the longest migrations of all birds, with several WATERFOWL More than a million waterfowl visit the Lake Huron to Lake Erie Corridor each year. BUTTERFLIES species flying between South America and the arctic tundra each year. Their bodies The corridor lies on the major migration pathways of both dabbling and diving ducks. The region’s coastal marshes reflect the lifestyle to which they are uniquely adapted: long legs for wading in shal- are excellent places to view them during migration. low marshes and mudflats, a long bill to probe for invertebrate prey, and large wings and a streamlined body to allow for speedy long-distance flights. These birds are not The American residents of the Lake Huron to Lake Erie Corridor but stop here for critical resting black duck and feeding as they migrate south. Pointe Mouillee State Game Area is one of the (Anas rubripes) was considered best places in the Midwestern to view migrating shorebirds. a migrant in the region around 1915, but was suspected to be nesting

JOHN SCHAFER JOHN there as well. JOHN SCHAFER JOHN Populations then increased and by the JOHN SCHAFER JOHN JOHN SCHAFER JOHN Pictured are monarch butterflies (Danaus mid-20th Century, it was more abundant

plexippus) on in the St. Clair IMAGES JIM SIMEK, NATURE’S Redhead ducks (Aythya americana) can The blue-winged teal (Anas discors) is a than the mallard in Michigan. However River Delta. During the fall, they can be seen The semipalmated sandpiper (Calidris pusilla) be seen during their migration, when they relatively small dabbling duck that migrates between the 1950s and the 1980s, the black NATIONAL IMAGE LIBRARY IMAGE NATIONAL HTTP://IMAGES.FWS.GOV/ migrating along the shores of the St. Clair River, winters in South America and nests in the arctic congregate in large numbers in the Corridor’s to Central and South America each year. It duck’s population declined dramatically Lake St. Clair and Detroit River in large tundra near water. It sometimes makes a The short-billed dowitcher (Limnodromus open waters. In fact, they often are part of often is the last to arrive and earliest to leave due to loss of habitat, hunting and numbers while on their way southward to 2,000-mi (3,200-km) non-stop journey from griseus) breeds in the wetlands of northern mixed flocks of 20,000 or more diving ducks. the Corridor during migration. It can fly at competition with mallards for nesting sites. Mexico. Resting migrants may cover entire trees. nesting areas to its tropical wintering grounds. Canada and can winter as far south as Brazil. Redheads winter mostly in the . high speeds and maneuver with great accuracy.

54 EXPLORE OURNATURALWORLD: A BIODIVERSITYATLAS OF THELAKE HURON TOLAKE ERIE CORRIDOR| ALONG THESHORELINE ALONG THESHORELINE| EXPLORE OURNATURALWORLD: A BIODIVERSITYATLAS OF THELAKE HURON TOLAKE ERIE CORRIDOR 55 THE LANDSCAPES OFONTARIO ANDMICHIGAN HARBOR EXAMPLES OF TWO GLOBALLY IMPERILED NATURAL COMMUNITIES: AND Warm-Season Prairie Grasses late-summer, their bold, arching, flowering grasses. Kentucky blue grass (Poa pratensis) Tallgrass prairies are named after their stalks dominate the prairie landscape. is a cool-season grass introduced from dominant plants, the tall grasses, Warm-season grasses break dormancy in Europe that has invaded prairies and is “The banks of the strait are vast which can reach heights of 3m early summer and produce much of their also the dominant plant of the millions (nine ft) or more. Many of the native growth during the heat of the summer. of acres of lawn planted in the U.S. meadows, and the prospect is terminated warm-season grasses, such as big Cool-season grasses begin growth in early and Canada. Kentucky blue grass bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) and spring and go dormant during requires extensive and expensive with some hills covered with vineyards, Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans), summertime. Canada wild rye (Elymus watering and fertilization that are excellent forage for grazing canadensis) and sedge (Carex contrasts sharply to the adaptability trees bearing good fruit, groves and animals. When the grasses bloom in pennsylvanica) are native cool-season of the native warm-season grasses. forests, so well disposed that one would think that nature alone could not have made, without the help of art.”

From The Tallgrass Restoration Handbook by Stephen Packard and Cornelia F. Mutel. eds. for the Society for –Father Louis Hennepin, a Catholic priest and explorer, Ecological Restoration. Copyright © 1997 by Society for Ecological Restoration. Adapted by permission of describing the shorelines of the Detroit and St. Clair Rivers in 1679. Island Press, Washington, D.C.

Historical References settlers who first saw the prairie and Stretching from Texas to Canada, the prairie biome once covered vast expanses discovered its rich soils, which lay Switchgrass In 1670, the early explorer Galinee of land in the middle of the North noted “grand prairies” along the eastern beneath the thick growth of grasses American continent. Within this great and wildflowers. The blue joint grass Big Bluestem shore of Lake St. Clair and Walpole stretch of grassland there are variations in Prairie Cordgrass Island. When European settlers arrived (Calamagrostis canadensis) of which plant communities, distinguished by three in the Corridor in the late-1700s, they Stevenson wrote was prized by early main types of prairie: short, mixed and settlers as “marsh hay.” tallgrass. Each supports distinct plant and A view of the restored Dow Prairie during wintertime at the University of Michigan’s Nichols Arboretum described mosaics of prairie and animal communities. Short-grass prairies in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Unlike non-native cool-season grasses, prairie grasses do not flatten under the “oak openings." Early land surveys Upland prairies were the first to succumb occur in the western, drier of the weight of snow. Their stiff stems provide cover and protection for small animals during winter. that established the boundary between to farming cultivation in the early 1800s biome. As precipitation increases toward Monroe and Wayne counties in the east, mixed-grass prairie gives way to as farmers used plows pulled by teams the high, lush vegetation of the tallgrass Michigan made repeated references of horses to turn the sod. It was said that to “extensive open, wet prairie.” prairie. Southern Michigan and Ontario the sound of ripping roots was akin to the are home to tallgrass prairies. One of the first botanical descriptions sound of thunder. Drainage of wet prairies of the prairies in Tallgrass prairies in southern Michigan came later and required extensive drainage and Ontario are on the northeastern edge characterized a sandy field in the systems to yield highly productive and Windsor region as a “garden of rarities.” of a “prairie peninsula,” first described by prized agricultural land. This mass botanist Edgar Walter Transeau in 1935. “The land on its banks is about the conversion of land from wilderness to The “prairie peninsula” is an extension of agriculture was the first of many dramatic the tallgrass prairie of the eastern Great richest I ever saw in any country. Plains. Prairie vegetation spread into Reprinted from PRAIRIE PLANTS AND THEIR land use changes in the Corridor. ENVIRONMENT: A FIFTY–YEAR STUDY IN THE Six or seven feet deep of earth that Michigan and Ontario about 5,000 to MIDWEST by J.E. Weaver by permission of the would do for a garden, and extensive 8,000 years ago during a relatively warm, University of Nebraska Press. Copyright © 1968 Historical references of prairies originate from: University of Nebraska Press. Copyright © renewed grass plains stretching for miles into Baskowsky, Wasyl and John L. Riley. 1992. A Survey dry period, known as a hypsithermal 1996 by the University Nebraska Press. the country, without a tree save here of the Prairies and of . period, which followed the Proceedings from the 13th Annual North American Many prairie plants have deep or thick and there a small clump like an glacial retreat. As the climate gradually Prairie Conference. Windsor, Ontario. became cooler and wetter, forests re-invad- root systems and other adaptations that island in a plain – the grass, ed the prairie, resulting in the mosaic of sustain them through dry summer months. particularly that called blue joint, Tallgrass Prairie prairie, savanna and woodlands that the Most of the biomass of prairie grasses is furnishes excellent pasture and hay.” The term “prairie” is the French word first European explorers encountered. below the ground in their extensive root systems. As old roots die and new roots for meadow. Prairies are grasslands an excellent habitat and food This description by Robert Stevenson, form, organic matter builds up, creating dominated by grasses, sedges and source for many creatures. Prairies a pioneer settler, of the land along the the rich soils for which prairies are known. wildflowers. They are nearly treeless and in North America support more LARSON EVAN Thames River downstream of Chatham Carbon dioxide is caught by this significant are defined by an incredible diversity biodiversity than any other type soil carbon buildup, which reduces the level in 1843 reflects the attitudes of many Big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) is easy to identify when it blooms during the fall. Its distinctive of herbaceous plants that provide of terrestrial ecosystem. of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. flower head looks like a turkey’s foot.


Tallgrass prairies in the Lake Huron Fire and Soil Type to Lake Erie Corridor occur mostly on Prairies are fire-dependent sandy portions of the lakeplain, but communities. Fire prevents trees they also have a patchy distribution and shrubs from invading a prairie on well-drained, sandy- gravelly kames, and converting it into a forest. and glacial outwash landforms. Inland, many wet prairies occur along Warm-season grasses and prairie the margins of river systems on outwash wildflowers are uniquely adapted to deposits, such as the Huron River. fire. Their growth tips, or meristems, Different landforms support distinct are below the soil’s surface and are not prairie plant communities; their species damaged from hot flames. In contrast, composition varies greatly, depending on the growing tips of trees and shrubs moisture, soils and topography. and non-prairie weedy species are damaged by fire. The predominance Ecologists define tallgrass prairie types of warm-season grasses in a prairie helps to carry fire. Once ignited, the by their soil and moisture content, using TRISH BECKJORD terms wet, mesic (moderate), and xeric grasses carry a surface fire that is hot (dry.) These factors dictate the species enough to knock back competing Today, land managers use prescribed (controlled) burns to maintain and improve the health of grasses and associated wildflowers that shrubs, saplings and other non-prairie and diversity of tallgrass prairies and oak savannas. herbaceous plants. can grow in any given locale. Blue joint create the hotter conditions that might strikes or by native people, who may grass, big JESSICA PITELKA OPFER JESSICA PITELKA In a normal prairie fire there is very severely damage or kill mature oak trees. have set fires to drive game and to bluestem, little soil temperature change. Under The most valuable result of a prairie fire maintain the plant and animal prairie cord Prairie remnants thrive along railroad tracks such as this one along the Trail these natural circumstances fire does is the blackened soil, which warms communities that sustained them grass (Spartina in Rochester, Michigan. Sparks from passing trains frequently cause fires in the surrounding landscape. Supported by the fires, many of the region’s best remaining prairie communities not scorch the earth. Measurements quickly under the heat of the sun. This with food, medicines and clothing. pectinata) and can be found beside railroad lines. taken by scientists indicate that for warming favors the growth of prairie many different Lakeplain prairies also have persisted only a very brief time is there any grasses that do not break dormancy until sedge species because of the unique hydrology of the significant change in temperature. a certain soil temperature is reached. This are dominant lakeplain. The soils in which the prairies Even then it is usually in the top helps them get a head start over weedy, grasses in a grow are characterized by 3-9 ft (1-3 m) centimeter of the soil. Slow-moving cool-season competitors that could wet prairie. of highly permeable sand over clay, fires that have a lot of woody material eventually shade them out. Dry prairies which results in very wet conditions to burn, such as in a degraded prairie support little A combination of built-up organic during spring floods and a very dry invaded by trees and shrubs, can get bluestem matter and seasonal drought makes environment during the summer. Such hotter and cause localized sterilization (Schizachyrium prairies naturally prone to extreme variations in the availability of soil. Fires that occur more frequent- scoparius), during the summer growing season. of water are better suited to wildflowers ly, such as every two to four years, will switch grass In pre-settlement times, these fires could and grasses than trees and shrubs. not have the fuel of litter build-up to (Panicum have been caused by either lightning virgatum) and SUSAN R. CRISPIN SUSAN Prairies and oak savannas Indian grass. remain in the Lake Huron to Yet, because changes in topography and PRAIRIE OR MEADOW? soils are often subtle, different types of Lake Erie Corridor because they vegetation may grow next to each other. ot every meadow or field is a prairie. are able to withstand stressed And some species, such as big bluestem, Although meadows are open, treeless areas environments where trees can- with grasses, they usually form as a result may be found in most prairies regardless not. The combination of period- of moisture content. of a disturbance, such as logging or Nland clearing, and are often early signs of forest ic wildfires, drought, spring JOHN SCHAFER JOHN regeneration. Fallow farm fields also have grasses floods and a warm climate have The marsh blazing star (Liatris spicata) blooms profusely in a wet lakeplain prairie on Harsens and wildflowers. But most fallow fields tend to be Island in the St. Clair River Delta. all contributed to their persist- (Above) Early historical accounts reveal dominated by Eurasian grasses and invasive plants, that bouquets of the eastern prairie fringed ence in the region. Prairies such as Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota) or spotted orchid (Platanthera leucophaea) were gathered Although tallgrass prairie has a scattered Some plant species that thrive in thrive where these effects are in abundance around the bathhouses of knapweed (Centaurea maculosa), that thrive in distribution throughout southeastern a lakeplain prairie community are most severe, while oak savanna Belle Isle Park, Detroit. Today, this unique Michigan and southwestern Ontario, the restricted to the southern Great disturbed areas. Meadows usually are dominated by and stunning orchid of the prairie is an asters and goldenrods, which do not carry fire as well grows where these stresses are less extremely rare plant globally. Only a few, prairies that occur on the lakeplain are Lakes region. Their continued

as the warm-season grasses of a prairie ecosystem. STEWART ROBERT undisturbed natural areas in the Lake Huron special because of the unique plant and presence is important to maintaining pronounced. to Lake Erie Corridor still support it. animal species which they support. biodiversity on a global scale.


E J O (Asclepias syriaca) H N T has distinctive A I L E L D E N J seed pods filled E W O with downy hairs, O J D O L

I which aid in seed H F


T E I dispersal by wind. E J D O Yellow star-grass J H E Some prairie These downy (Culver’s root and N

T HOLLAND RANDY I Hypoxis hirsuta E hairs, or floss, marsh blazing star) D remnants have as J to host their larvae. Big bluestem E were used to stuff life preserver jackets in many as 200 distinct Andropogon gerardii World War II. Today, milkweeds are a raw plant species growing in Prairie grasses support wildlife in material for commercial purposes such as Hoary puccoon rubber, fiber and even fuel production. Lithospermum them. Given this diversity, many ways. Several varieties of Wood betony canescens skipper butterflies–dusted, Indian, Pedicularis canadensis the prairie is constantly J O crossline and Leonard–feed on the leaf C H A N Indian grass R changing, with different plants O T L I E blades of little bluestem. Indian grass hosts I N D Sorghastrum nutans E J A E SPRING LL blooming from spring until fall. B E I N the larvae of the wood satyr and common R I W B

O A O wood nymph butterflies. U

In early May, D A E L R L L I F E F These plants are a mere sampling of N the first wildflowers E W O the beauty that can be found in a tallgrass prairie O D

of the prairie emerge L I


throughout the seasons. F from the ground. E Blue-eyed grass Each wildflower displays its unique color and Sisyrinchium albidum AL Prairie cord grass LE N scent in hopes of attracting one of the many W Spartina pectinata O O insects that inhabit a prairie ecosystem. D L I F F E Very specialized relationships have developed Little bluestem J O J Schizachyrium scoparius O H Small white ALL F H N between some insects and the prairie plants L. CUTHRELL DAVID N T T I lady’s-slippers E I E D D J that host their larva. For example, rare J E In autumn, warm-season prairie Cyripedium candidum The blazing star borer moth lives E insects such as Culver’s root and in harmony with the prairie ecosystem that grasses have reached their full blazing star borer moths feed among supports its larval host plant, the marsh grandeur, topping out at heights the many different prairie blazing star. This species at risk has of six feet (1.8 m) or more. wildflowers, but require their been identified in the lakeplain Bird’s foot violet G prairies of , E namesake species R Viola pedata R Golden Alexanders Michigan. Y Switch grass C L J E O Zizia aurea M H Panicum virgatum N E










H Tall sunflower F

A R F E R N Y A R A N S L Helianthus giganteus N A C C




R Marsh Blazing Star A


N E R C Liatris spicata

E J O Smooth Aster H N

T Aster laevis I E D Culver’s root J E Veronicastrum virginicum Mountain mint Sullivant’s Milkweed Fringed gentian M Pycnanthemum virginianum Asclepias sullivantii A Gentiana crinita R Michigan lily SUMMER Y L A Lilium michiganense F R


Spring is merely the N Bergamot C

E M beginning for the color IC G H Monarda fistulosa E A C R E A R R L O Y show in a prairie. A P L C L . T R IN L L G R O E E E E IS M N S R H R B By mid- to late-July, the E W E Y I R B N





K O wildflower show is in full D M U










swing, with a profusion S Canada tick trefoil of prairie flowers displaying Desmodium canadense a riotous combination of colors well into late Black-eyed susan Spiderwort Yellow coneflower summer and fall. Joe-pye weed Butterfly Milkweed Rudbeckia hirta Tradescantia ohiensis Ratibida pinnata Ironweed Eupatorium maculatum Asclepias incarnata Vernonia fasciculata Birds Dependent on Grassland Habitat are in Decline

The Greater (6,400-ha) Sibley Prairie. Only 350-acres savanna and oak woodlands. Its vast wet- Sibley Road (140 ha) are left today. The complex is lands are significant groundwater rassland birds are obolinks (Dolichonyx oryzivorus) Prairie Complex home to at least 170 rare grasses, sedges, recharge areas that flow into Brownstown declining at an alarming make one of the longest in Brownstown rushes and wildflowers including 14 Creek, the Bakely Drain and Marsh rate in North America. migrations of any songbird, up Township, endangered, threatened Creek, which connect to the Detroit One largely-unnoticed to 6,200 mi (9,920 km) from Michigan, is an and special concern River south of Gibraltar. Greason is loss and fragmentation Bnesting areas in the northern U.S. and ecological treas- plant species in of the birds’ grassland habitat – southern Canada to wintering grounds in ure of the Michigan. Birds such The Michigan Natural Features assorted prairie types, wet meadows, South America. Historically, bobolinks Inventory has identified the Sibley Prairie

IAN BOST largest and as the American as representing “our greatest hope for pastureland and fallow farm fields. nested in the prairies of the Midwestern The bottle gentian highest-quality kestrel and bluebird Grassland birds also are threatened U.S. and south-. They (Gentiana lakeplain prairie find habitat in its preserving a functional lakeplain prairie by high rates of predation, nest were considered abundant in the Lake andrewsii) grows remnants in grassy meadows. ecosystem.” The Nature Conservancy, parasitism by cowbirds, and earlier Huron to Lake Erie Corridor in 1900. As in the wet soils of Southeast Michigan Land Conservancy,

Michigan. Prior Duke’s skipper, a DENNIS ALBERT lakeplain prairies and Michigan Nature Association are and more frequent mowing and agriculture spread eastward, so did to European threatened species in The colorful JIM SIMEK, NATURE’S IMAGES JIM SIMEK, NATURE’S and wet meadows. harvesting of fields, resulting in bobolinks. They were most abundant settlement, Michigan, has been wildflowers of protecting very small parcels of this Its intense blue natural area. But more protection is reproductive failure. when they could nest in the extensive success has been lowered by the flowers bloom in native buffalo identified at the site. Sibley Prairie hayfields required to support the introduction of cool-season grasses, the late-summer needed to ensure the survival of this Historically, grassland ecosystems roamed the The prairie remnants widespread use of horses for which are mowed earlier (during the at Sibley Prairie. 16,000-ac are scattered among a mosaic of oak unique ecosystem and the many rare such as tallgrass prairies depended transportation and farming. nesting period) and more frequently species that it supports. on periodic fires and animal grazing than native, warm-season grasses. to maintain their character and Today, populations are declining due Since bobolinks exhibit strong diversity. The decrease or extirpation to habitat loss, changing agricultural fidelity to nesting areas, returning of grazing animals, fire suppression, practices and cowbird parasitism. Like to a successful nesting place in the introduction of non-native or meadowlarks, bobolinks prefer mixed subsequent years, this change in invasive plant species and changing grasslands and older fields, but can nest agricultural practices can be agricultural practices have dramati- in smaller patches of habitat. Breeding especially detrimental. cally altered grasslands. Birds that rely on grasslands are becoming dependent on humans to create IBLEY RAIRIE or manage suitable ecosystems. he Henslow’s sparrow two and S P But determining how to manage (Ammodramus henslowii) 50 pairs grasslands for birds can be difficult is a small, inconspicuous bird of birds. because each species may have that requires large, often damp, Around 1900, BUFFALO different requirements. Some Tgrasslands usually greater than 250 ac they were “But 15 leagues from Detroit, prominent examples include (100 ha). It prefers tall, dense grasses with found the Henslow’s sparrow, eastern much standing decaying vegetation and a sporadically ISLAND WALPOLE CENTRE HERITAGE at the entrance to Lake Erie, meadowlark, bobolink, and thick layer of litter. As grasslands mature in the Lake Huron to Lake Erie loggerhead shrike. inclining to the south to and these distinctive elements diminish, Corridor region, but were known to Henslow’s sparrows move to a new nest regularly on Grosse Ile. Today, southwest, are boundless location. They make their nests on the they are threatened in Michigan prairies which stretch away ground, often in loose colonies of between and endangered in Canada. for 100 leagues. It is there that these mighty oxen (bison), which oggerhead shrikes (Lanius from which they hunt. They live contamination of insects, a substantial ludovicianus) are unique among year-round in much of their broad part of their diet, by pesticides. are covered with wool, find songbirds because they prey North American range, but northern food in abundance.” upon vertebrates, including populations are migratory. Lrodents and other birds. The shrikes lack – Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, Loggerhead shrikes once were fairly

the strong talons of predatory raptors, so JENSEN HOLLY BY ILLUSTRATION common nesters in the region. Now they founder of Detroit, describing they often impale their prey on thorns, are nearly extirpated and are considered barbed wire or sharp twigs, earning them the landscape of southeastern endangered in Michigan and Ontario, The buffalo (Bison bison) was generally known as a plains creature. But it also had lived in woodlands the nickname “butcherbird.” Loggerhead mainly due to habitat loss. Other Michigan in 1702 well into Alaska in the northwest and in most of the , except for New England. Early shrikes are birds of open country, such as reasons have yet to be discovered but settlers hunted this shaggy mammal in such places as forest glades in what is now Pennsylvania. grasslands that have short vegetation and Authorities agree that it was extirpated on the Atlantic side of the Alleghenies by 1730 and east of the may include being hit by vehicles as they a scattering of short trees and shrubs Mississippi by about 1810. This husky creature was no match for hungry settlers with guns. The bison that

feed along roadsides, and reduction or U.S. NATIONAL WILDLIFE SERVICE AND FISH HTTP://IMAGES.FWS.GOV/ LIBRARY IMAGE frequented prairies in southeastern Michigan and described by Cadillac were killed off by about 1800. O JIBWAY P RAIRIE COMPLEX OAK S AVANNA

The Ojibway Prairie Complex “A sandy ridge producing contains 550 ac (220 ha) of some of the highest-quality nothing but a few tallgrass prairie and oak savanna left scattering of trees in southern Ontario. It is composed of five natural areas within minutes of white oak.” of downtown Windsor, Ontario. –SURVEY MAP FOR A RIDGE WEST Ojibway Park, Tallgrass Heritage OF LEAMINGTON, ONTARIO Park, Black Oak Heritage Park and Oak savannas are characterized by Spring Garden Prairie are owned in widely spaced trees with shrubs, part by the City of Windsor Parks grasses, sedges, ferns and wildflowers and Recreation Department. The occupying the understory, which Ojibway Prairie Provincial Nature means they are on the ground under Reserve is owned by the Ontario the canopy of tree branches. The oak Ministry of Natural Resources. savanna ecosystem is a transition Remaining lands are owned by community between a prairie and private landowners. EVAN LARSON EVAN a true ecosystem. At the Ojibway Nature Centre at (Above) Ojibway Park in Windsor, Ontario. (Right) The grassy understory of an oak Ojibway Park, many walking trails The eastern rattlesnake (Sistrurus savanna is filled with many plants invite visitors to experience and learn catenatus catenatus) is found, over much of the year, in wetlands, such as sedge marshes, bogs, fens, and BRUCE KINGSBURY species associated both with tallgrass about rare tallgrass prairie and oak shrub swamps. They may move into adjacent grassland habitats in summer. Wet soils are prairie and forest communities. savanna ecosystems. In addition to important to this rattlesnake, as the high water tables found in wet prairies, meadows, and The groundcover is a mosaic of plant the eastern massasauga, the eastern fens prevent the ground from freezing deeply. These snakes often hibernate in the tunnels species, each with a varying sun and fox snake (Elaphe vulpina gloydii) and created by crayfish or small mammals. shade tolerance. The open canopy Butler’s garter snake (Thamnophis The Eastern Massasauga is the only venomous snake native to the region. Despite its reputation, of the savanna, which allows sunlight butleri) are rare reptiles that find a this rattlesnake is normally docile unless provoked. Its distribution is restricted to the southern to reach the groundcover layer, home in the complex. of Lower Michigan and Ontario along with northern and . Michigan now has the highest remaining populations of the Eastern Massasauga. Because of habitat can support prairie plant species loss and persecution by humans, this snake is a rare and a protected species throughout its range. in sunnier areas, such as butterfly An oak savanna on Walpole Island weed (Asclepias tuberosa) and flowering Because there are so few quality savannas are able to thrive in spurge (Euphorbia corollata). In shadier remnants left, it is hard to fully a blend of shade and sun; examples areas, fire-tolerant forest shrubs like The Great Lakes Coastal Complex understand the ecology of oak include wild lupine (Lupinus perennis) blueberries (Vaccinium spp.) and huck- savannas. However it is thought and purple milkweed (Asclepias In the St. Clair River Delta at Algonac Great Lakes Coastal Complex. are defined by water fluctuations leberry () grow. that the true plant species of purpurescens). State Park and Walpole Island, along The vegetation ranges from and lakeplain : oak savanna, with locations in and Lake submersed plants rooted in water lakeplain prairie, and Great Lakes Erie, there is a very special association about 6 ft (2 m) deep to tall, marsh. All are rare and globally of natural communities called the wide-spreading white oaks (Quercus imperiled. Prairie: A fire-maintained natural alba) that grow on the sandy beach community dominated by grasses ridges formed thousands of years ago The Great Lakes marsh extends with few or no trees by glacial lakes. The three major into the nearshore waters, but also includes saturated sand. The prairie Savanna: a fire-maintained natural natural communities that compose community dominated by grasses or sedges the Great Lakes Coastal Complex borders the inland portion of the but with scattered, fire-tolerant species marsh on sandy deposits. Oak of trees. savanna is scattered throughout the prairie on narrow, sandy beach Woodland: a fire-maintained natural community with a grassy turf ridges. Historically, all three of dominated by trees these communities were tied together by fluctuating water Forest: a closed-canopy, wooded levels, which could alter their sizes natural community that is not dependent on frequent fire. and boundaries both seasonally From The Tallgraas Restoration Handbook by Stephen and annually. Packard and Cornelia F. Mutel. eds. for the Society for F NATURAL RESOURCES MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT O Ecological Restoration. Copyright © 1997 by Society for Ecological Restoration. Adapted by permission of Island Press, Washington , D.C.

64 EXPLORE OURNATURALWORLD: A BIODIVERSITYATLAS OF THELAKE HURON TOLAKE ERIE CORRIDOR| ALONG THESHORELINE ALONG THESHORELINE| EXPLORE OURNATURALWORLD: A BIODIVERSITYATLAS OF THELAKE HURON TOLAKE ERIE CORRIDOR 65 Types of Oak Savanna (Juniperus virginiana). The ground rough blazing star (Liatris aspera) The Karner Blue Butterfly Oak savannas occupy a variety of soils, cover of this dry savanna type is diverse. and wild bergamot (Monarda The Karner blue butterfly (Lycaeides ranging from wet to dry. In the glacial Little bluestem and Pennsylvania sedge fistulosa) populate sunnier areas. melissa samuelis) lives in oak savanna lakeplains of Michigan and Ontario, are dominant grass species. Wildflowers and pine barren ecosystems where its adapted to drought conditions such Wetter savannas occupy flat, oak savannas occur on sand ridges, poorly-drained soils of the lakeplain. larval host plant, wild lupine, thrives. level sandplains and wet swales between as tickseed (Coreopsis lanceolata), Wild lupine is known to be the only wild lupine (Lupinus perennis), The flora of this wetter savanna type ridges. Further inland, oak savanna is able to withstand springtime plant on which the Karner blue’s and oak barrens grow on well-drained flooding. Bur oak (Quercus caterpillar feeds. Without this plant, outwash plains, moraines and kames. macrocarpa), pin oak (Quercus the butterfly can’t reproduce. The In all cases, oaks are the dominant trees palustris) and swamp white oak adult butterfly feeds on a wide variety while grasses and sedges make up most (Quercus bicolor) dominate the tree of wildflowers, such as wild bergamot of the groundcover. canopy. Shrubs such as winterberry and butterfly weed. Two types of oak savanna are prominent (Ilex verticillata), dogwoods (Cornus The loss of oak savannas has brought in the lakeplain: dry to mesic, and mesic spp.) and chokeberry (Aronia this little butterfly close to extinction. to wet. Dry oak savannas exist on the melanocarpa) frequent the It is now extirpated from southeastern dry sandy beach ridges of the lakeplain, understory. Many of the grasses and Michigan and all of Ontario. It is list- where black oak (), white wildflowers in the ground layer are ed as federally endangered in the U.S. oak and pignut hickory () the same as in the adjacent wet and is the subject of recovery efforts dominate the tree canopy, and shrubs prairies. Big bluestem, blue joint that span its native range of , such as New Jersey tea (Ceanothus grass and sedges are dominant New Hampshire, Ontario, Michigan, americanus), American hazelnut grasses. Forbs that prefer wetter Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin and (Corylus americana), wild plum conditions such as common . (Prunus americana) and blueberry mountain mint (Pycnanthemum RANDY HOLLAND RANDY In Lambton County, Ontario, vegetate the understory. Very dry virginianum), Riddell’s goldenrod The eastern prickly pear cactus (Opuntia efforts are being made to restore the savannas also may have evergreen trees (), and ironweed humifusa), found in the dry black oak savannas butterfly’s habitat at Pinery Provincial such as white pine (), red (Vernonia fasciculata) are indicators (Above) The wild lupine of Ontario’s Point Pelee National Park, is the of this savanna type. Park and adjacent nature preserves pine (Pinus resinosa) or eastern redcedar only native cactus in this region. (Lupinus perennis) thrives at Petersburg State managed by Lambton Wildlife Inc. in Game Area in western Monroe County, Lambton County, Ontario. It is hoped Michigan, where “prescribed burns,” or that the work of a multi-disciplinary deliberately set and controlled fires, are Like tallgrass prairie, oak savanna is a recovery team, with cooperation from conducted to help manage this natural area’s oak savannas and tallgrass prairies. OAKSAVANNAS AREMAINTAINED BYFIRE fire-dependent community. Frequent the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, will wildfires have historically played a enable Karner blue butterflies to

major role in maintaining oak savan- flourish once again in Ontario. (Right) The Karner blue butterfly. U.S.WILDLIFE SERVICE FISH AND LIBRARY IMAGE NATIONAL HTTP://IMAGES.FWS.GOV/ na’s open structure and grassy under- story. killed or severely stunted by fire. are nearly extinct. Without periodic fire, Grazing animals such as the buffalo, By removing fire-sensitive woody species woody species invade a savanna. as well as drought on the sandy and the lower branches of oaks, fire Their shade eventually smothers the ridges and the lakeplain’s unique creates the characteristic open canopy prairie vegetation and blocks the open hydrology, also have contributed of the savanna. Fire also fostered the sunlight that oak seedlings need to to maintenance of oak savanna in the growth of warm-season prairie grasses thrive. Without fire, oak savanna Corridor. Ecologists have discovered such as little bluestem, and other plants gradually transforms into oak woodlands. that the seasonally high water table that are adapted to periodic fires. This trend is especially apparent in the of the lakeplain has helped maintain lakeplain of Michigan, where many The following spring wet savanna communities. suppression by humans has of the historical oak savannas have DENNIS ALBERT DENNIS ALBERT greatly altered the distribution and become closed-canopy oak forests. Oak trees, which define savanna in extent of oak savannas throughout Prescribed burns are being used to restore wet oak savannas at Algonac State Park, Michigan. this region, have a thick, fire-resist- North America. Compared with Usually considered destructive, fire At left is a highly degraded oak savanna, which has been invaded by thick brush, during ant bark. Oaks are not killed by pre-settlement distribution, oak savannas actually has preserved a rich natural a controlled burn. At right is the same oak savanna the following spring after a prescribed low-intensity fire, although often the burn, which opened the tree canopy, cleared away saplings and shrubby growth, and permitted heritage. Without fire’s regenerative lower branches are burned off. Trees (Left) The smooth yellow false foxglove effects, oak savannas and tallgrass the sun to reach the forest floor. Often, more than one prescribed burn is needed to fully (Aureolaria flava) lives in oak savannas restore the health of a degraded oak savanna. and shrubs that are more common in prairies, along with the myriad woodlands with dense canopies, such and woodlands with sandy soils. It is parasitic to the roots of white oak and is often found of rare species living in them, could as black cherry (Prunus serotina), are

ALLEN WOODLIFFE in close association with them. be lost forever.

66 EXPLORE OURNATURALWORLD: A BIODIVERSITYATLAS OF THELAKE HURON TOLAKE ERIE CORRIDOR| ALONG THESHORELINE ALONG THESHORELINE| EXPLORE OURNATURALWORLD: A BIODIVERSITYATLAS OF THELAKE HURON TOLAKE ERIE CORRIDOR 67 Less than one percent of the original tallgrass prairie and oak savanna vegetation remains in Southern Michigan and Ontario. Because these ecosystems support so many rare plant and animal species, the protection and management of the isolated remnants is critical to preserving our native biodiversity.

The Loss of Tallgrass Prairie and Oak Savanna Habitat in the Region It isn’t known exactly how much original prairie and savanna habitat existed prior to European settlement in Ontario, but it is estimated that 100,000 ac (40,000 ha) once covered the landscape of the southern part of the province. A mere 2,100 ha of prairie and oak savanna remain ONTARIO MINISTRY OF NATURAL RESOURCES NATURAL OF MINISTRY ONTARIO today. Most of this vegetation is The American badger (Taxidea taxus) located at Walpole Island First Nation is a classic mammal of tallgrass prairie and oak savanna. It is becoming increasingly rare in (450 ha), the Windsor Ojibway Southern Ontario and Michigan, areas which Prairie Complex (320 ha) and define the easternmost extent of its distribution Pinery Provincial Park (1,250 ha). across North America. The badger prefers sandy soils where it uses its short, powerful legs for In Michigan, pre-settlement digging. In fact, the badger can dig a hole faster vegetation is estimated at 122,425 ac than a man with a shovel. This nomadic animal (48,970 ha) of lakeplain prairies in likes to travel during darkness and can move St. Clair, Macomb, Oakland, more than 10 km (6 mi) in one night. CENTRE INFORMATION HERITGAE NATURAL Washtenaw, Wayne and Monroe Animals of Oak Savanna counties. Unfortunately, less than This map illustrates the Pre-European settlement distribution of tallgrass prairie and oak savanna in 800 ac (320 ha) remain today. Ontario. Today, exisitng prairie communities are remants of this original distribution. Oak savanna provides habitat for many wildlife species. Songbirds, such as the These natural areas represent the Places to visit and experience tallgrass prairies and oak savannas eastern bluebird, indigo bunting and best of the remaining prairie and oak in the Lake Huron to Lake Erie Corridor are: brown thrasher thrive in the open savanna ecosystems left in the Lake grasslands occasionally punctuated by oak Huron to Lake Erie Corridor. United States Canada trees. Oak savanna also supports many Unfortunately, the remnants perform Petersburg State Game Area Ojibway Prairie Provincial Nature Reserve

small mammal species, such as cottontail FERN WILSON few, if any, of their original landscape Algonac State Park Ojibway Park rabbit and fox squirrel, which are hunted and habitat functions to support St. Clair Flats State Game Area Point Pelee National Park by raptors, like the sharp-shinned hawk. mammals, birds, reptiles and Larger mammals, such as red fox, amphibians. Butterfly populations Stone Road on Pelee Island white-tailed deer, coyote and badger, have declined to the point that some Pinery Provincial Park find ideal habitat in oak savanna as well. species, such as Karner blue and Highland State Recreation Area Howard Watson Nature Trail (Above Right) Oak savanna provides ideal frosted elfin, are endangered species Island Lake Recreation Area Canatara Park Prairie Reconstruction habitat for the eastern bluebird (Sialia sialis), a in the U.S. and have been extirpated Nichols Arboretum Dow Prairie Reconstruction Dennis Rupert Prairie Preserve native species that lives in cavities left in dead from Ontario. In addition, many Matthaei Botanical Gardens Prairie Reconstruction trees by woodpeckers or other natural causes. plants that once were common in The loss of dead trees and competition from tallgrass prairie and oak savanna Gallup Park (City of Ann Arbor) exotic birds – house sparrow (Passer domesti- ecosystems are at risk of being Furstenburg Park (City of Ann Arbor) The Great Lakes Marshes, tallgrass cus) and European starling (Sturnus vulgaris) – lost to the region, and in some Barton Park (City of Ann Arbor) prairies and oak savannas of the have contributed to the decline of this colorful Lake Huron to Lake Erie Corridor bird. Efforts to place artificial nest boxes are cases, Earth. Bandemer Park (City of Ann Arbor) have diminished greatly since the contributing to the eastern bluebird’s recovery. development of the region by European settlers. Parks and nature preserves (Below) The American kestrel make up most of the high-quality (Falco sparverius) is the smallest and most natural areas remaining today. An familiar hawk in North America. It prefers open extraordinary diversity of plants country with wooded edges where it can find and animals still call these remarkable perching sites and an abundance of large insects ecosystems home in today’s such as its favored prey, the grasshopper, as well environment. Protecting them as small animals such as mice and frogs. It also is critical for their survival.

nests in the cavities of trees. ALLEN CHARTIER


“Walpole Island First Nation lands is a mosaic Walpole Island is truly an ecological treasure in the Lake Huron to Lake Erie Corridor. The natural of wetlands, prairie, and oak savanna habitats communities found on Walpole Island offer clues to how the region’s without equal in the ” landscape might have looked prior - STATE OF THE LAKES ECOSYSTEM CONFERENCE, 1998 to European settlement. Among the many beautiful scenes on Walpole Island is a grove of widely spaced oak trees, with dappled light filtering through the canopy and the ground thickly covered with a multitude of wildflowers and grasses. In the distance, oak trees fade seamlessly into prairie meadows of purple, yellow, pink and white blossoms, as well as grasses that reach beyond shoulder height, seemingly to the sky. The air abounds with the G.M. ALLEN buzz of insects, birds calling to one another, and dewy scents. The eastern portion of St. Clair River Delta constitutes the lands of Walpole Island First Nation. There, 24,000 ha of delta islands On the fringes of Walpole Island, are a part of the traditional homeland of the , , and coastal marshes filled with cattails, sedges and rushes spread out in every Pottawatomi people who together comprise a political compact direction. Turquoise water, like that known as the Three Fires Confederacy. The found in the tropics, extends from “Anishinaabemowin” is their native language.

WALPOLE ISLAND HERITAGE CENTRE ISLAND HERITAGE WALPOLE the marshes into Lake St. Clair. The marsh area is so expansive that one could easily become lost in its “Mushkode” is the Ojibwa name for prairie and savanna. Walpole Island contains the best remnants in the Corridor of the globally imperiled tallgrass An aerial view of Walpole Island in the St. Clair River Delta prairie and oak savanna communities. Those at Walpole are home to more than 140 rare plant species. many openings, islands and dikes. The plant and animal life is their lands for thousands of years. amazingly diverse. In fact, Walpole The existence of high-quality Island has some of the highest tallgrass prairie and oak savanna is concentrations of rare species of any most likely due to their use of fire, place in Canada. The people of as well as protection from large-scale Walpole Island First Nation have agricultural development. The successfully managed and lived off people’s traditional values and practices are probably the largest factors responsible for sustaining the different habitats and associated plants and animals in their territory. The ecosystems that are threatened on a global scale remain a vital part of the Walpole Island community’s past, present and future.

Visitors can learn more about ALLEN WOODLIFFE Walpole Island’s natural

“Waabshkoki” is the Ojibwa name for marsh and all the life and rich biodiversity contained within it. Walpole Island is the only place in Canada heritage at the Walpole Island WALPOLE ISLAND HERITAGE CENTRE ISLAND HERITAGE WALPOLE Walpole Island has 42,500 ac (17,000 ha) of coastal marsh. It is one of the largest contiguous portions where the white prairie gentian (Gentiana Heritage Centre. of coastal marsh left in the Great Lakes Basin. Patches of wild rice are purposefully not harvested alba) is found. This plant is characteristic “Mtigwaaki” is the Ojibwa name for deciduous forests, or "bush." Walpole Island contains one of the to sustain the many waterfowl that visit each year. of high-quality oak savanna ecosystems. largest continuous tracts of forested area in southern Ontario.