Keeping the Great Lakes great

Leopard frog

Today you’re hearing from branch chief of environmental quality Anne Secord and biologist Gian Dodici of our New York Field Office. 

The quantity and quality of wetlands have been in a long decline in the coastal areas of the Great Lakes due to a combination of factors, including water level regulation and development.

Since 2010, our office and partners have been hard at work improving habitat at the Rochester Embayment Area of Concern, a specific section of the Lake Ontario shoreline around Rochester and about 6 miles of one of its tributaries, the Genesee River. Thanks to funding from Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, we’ve greatly improved the wetlands in one part of this area of concern, Braddock Bay in Greece, New York. 

Project Biologist Gian Dodici and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Biologist Heidi Kennedy at Braddock Bay Wildlife Management Area. Credit: USFWS

Project Biologist Gian Dodici and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Biologist Heidi Kennedy at Braddock Bay Wildlife Management Area. Credit: USFWS

Our work started with wetland habitat assessments in streams, ponds, rivers, and bays on the south shore of Lake Ontario near Rochester. We found degraded wetlands with few species and limited diversity of physical habitat. Cattails and a select few other plant species ran rampant, crowding out other plants, invading open areas, and nearly covering the entire wetland. By contrast, a complex, healthy wetland would generally have a mix of open water and vegetation with a variety of different plant types and heights. 

Our office prioritized several areas within the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Braddock Bay Wildlife Management Area (which is in the Rochester Embayment Area of Concern) for our focus and developed plans to restore some of the most degraded areas to healthy, diverse wetlands.

Excavator

Excavator constructing potholes and channels at Buck Pond 2016. Credit: USFWS

How did we do it?

  • We recreated a mosaic of edge habitat by excavating over 22 acres of potholes and open water channels in the solid cattail stands at three sites within the Wildlife Management Area; Long Pond, Buck Pond and the Salmon Creek Preserve. Edge habitats are transitions between one habitat and another. These areas will now be better habitat for amphibians, fish and migratory birds.
  • We also constructed 16 acres of interspersed habitat mounds, as well as islands that are isolated from the tenacious roots of the adjacent cattails. These mounds and islands have been treated to remove cattails, then seeded with herbaceous natives and planted with native woody species such as dogwood, buttonbush and maple.  The wetland potholes and habitat mounds are specifically designed to be of varying size and depth/height so as to improve habitat diversity. The birds and bees will love it!
  • The channels allow fish, such as northern pike, the access to spawn in newly created wetland habitat and will improve nesting and foraging habitat for ducks, wading birds, and, hopefully, the New York State-endangered black tern. The black tern nests in expansive marshes with mixtures of emergent wetlands and open water.
  • We also constructed vernal pools, which are temporary pools of water, within the upland area of the Salmon Creek Preserve to create breeding habitat for amphibians like the leopard frog.
Frog eggs

Leopard frogs should love the restored habitat. Here are what their eggs look like underwater. Credit: USFWS

Leopard frog

See those little translucent eggs in the other picture? They grow in to this striking leopard frog! Hopefully we will see a lot of them in the restored wetlands. Credit: USFWS

Take a look at the aerial video of the Salmon Creek Preserve this past winter after potholes, channels and islands had been constructed.

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