Don Uzarski, assistant professor of biology, has developed an index of Great Lakes coastal wetlands’ susceptibility to anthropogenic disturbances and now is testing the index’s reliability.
Despite their importance, Uzarski says wetlands are declining in Michigan and throughout the United States. Natural function and biodiversity of wetlands also are impaired due to changes in hydrology, surrounding land use, and pollutants from terrestrial and atmospheric inputs.
The susceptibility index will allow coastal zone managers to assess the susceptibility of coastal wetlands to anthropogenic disturbance by taking simple hydrogeomorphic measuresments such as a wetland’s exposure to wind and wave energy, depth, bottom slope and the depth of organic sediments.
Now Uzarski’s research team is testing the index using experiments to simulate the effects of autrophication of coastal wetlands that can occur from agricultural runoff, discharge of wastewater effluent, residential fertilizer runoff, and septic system leakage, among other sources. The team also is measuring invertebrate and fish community composition to characterize the relationships between metabolism and these higher organisms.
Grant: “Testing of the Index of Susceptibility for Great Lakes Coastal Wetlands,” Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, $40,000.