Ohio Partnership Awarded Funds to Restore Wetlands for Imperiled Birds

The Appalachian Ohio Weed Control Partnership received a North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) small grant to restore and improve 438 acres of palustrine wetland and associated upland habitat at 12 sites in Ohio. The Partnership received $75,000 – the maximum amount that can be awarded –  and their proposal ranked 6th out of 37 proposals for inland wetland projects.

Improved forage, nesting, winter and brood rearing habitat from restoration activities will benefit wetland migratory and local birds – including mallard, wood duck, American widgeon, lesser scaup, ring-necked duck and other wetland dependent species. It will also improve habitat in priority forested landscapes identified in Ohio’s Forest Resource Assessment (ODNR, Division of Forestry) and State Wildlife Action Plan (ODNR, Division of Wildlife).

According to Audubon Ohio, 90% of wetlands in the state of Ohio have been lost within the last 200 years and the predicted loss of wetlands is likely to increase under current climate change conditions. Breeding bird survey data from the Wayne National Forest (includes 7 wetlands in this project) have documented declines in mallard, wood duck, cerulean warbler, prothonotary warbler, Louisiana water thrush, wood thrush, and green herons over the past seven years. To buffer the impacts of stress caused by climate change, existing wetlands need to be ecologically functional.

Non-native, invasive plant species (NNIS) and degradation/fragmentation from historic land uses (coal mining, iron production, railroad development and agricultural use) are the most significant causes of stress to wetland systems on the Wayne National Forest (WNF). These conditions have likely contributed to the down-ward trend in population numbers. The enhancement, rehabilitation and re-establishment of these wetland areas will improve their habitat quality and enhance their resiliency to climatic change.

Partnering with Ohio University and Hocking College, the Appalachian Ohio Weed Control Partnership will rehabilitate a 22 acre wetland (Pine Creek) by re-structuring the existing levee to reduce the water level to diversify the wetland habitats provided by the impoundment and create hemi-marsh conditions.  The partnership will also re-establish a 31 acre wetland (McAllister) from a previously tiled agricultural field and implement pre-and post-restoration control of multi-flora rose, autumn olive, Japanese honeysuckle, bush honeysuckles, tree-of-heaven, yellow flag, purple loosestrife and others in the aforementioned wetlands.  Finally, an additional 385 acres of habitat will be enhanced in 10 wetlands (Big Bailey, Greendale, Mud Pond, Paines, Rutherford, Tansky, Pine Creek, McAllister, Sand Fork, and Whitaker).

Enhancement activities will be a combination of:

  • planting and re-seeding of native species to increase habitat structure and food sources through increased biodiversity
  • control of NNIS to re-open niches for native species restoration
  • installation of wood duck, mallard, and prothonotary warbler boxes where adequate densities of nesting cavities are not available
  • release of valuable wildlife crop trees to encourage diversity of hard and soft mast producing trees and improve vertical canopy structure
  • maintenance of openlands and shrub-scrub habitats.