Lake Erie was once surrounded by 307,000 acres of healthy wetlands that supported abundant wildlife and ecosystems. Over the last two centuries, all but five percent of those wetlands have been drained or developed, resulting in significant ecological impacts. The increased severity and frequency of harmful algal blooms and a decline in migratory bird populations are just two notable adverse impacts that resulted directly from the loss of wetlands in the Lake Erie watershed.
A project team used lidar data featured on Digital Coast as well as other resources to help identify locations of potentially restorable wetlands within Ohio’s Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. The team—consisting of staff members from The Nature Conservancy, NOAA, Ducks Unlimited, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service—identified 585 acres of coastal wetlands in the refuge suitable for restoration. They began the rebuilding process to alleviate some of the stress on the ecosystem.
Using Digital Coast lidar data, the team helped target 585 acres of restorable wetlands within the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, which led to increased habitat for wetland-dependent fish and wildlife species, including many federal and state threatened and endangered species. Increased food supply and cover attracted migrating and breeding birds back to the area. The project also enhanced resilience to climate change vulnerabilities through improved water conveyance and water level control to restored wetlands.