The Ecological Impacts of Fragmentation and Vegetation Removal in Lake Huron Coastal Wetlands

T. M. Burton, Donald G Uzarski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many Great Lakes coastal wetlands that remain today have been heavily fragmented by anthropogenic activities. The rate of fragmentation tends to increase during periods of low lake levels, especially in areas of low-gradient bathymetry where wetland area expands substantially and prompts the desire to dredge channels and groom shorelines. We sampled fish and invertebrates, using fyke nets and dipnets respectively, from wetland fragments paired with either areas where wetland vegetation was mowed or removed completely. Our concurrent studies showed that removal of vegetation by beach grooming and channel dredging created conduits for pelagic water to infiltrate the marsh and disrupt the ambient chemical/physical conditions. Alterations to both fish and macroinvertebrate communities were also evident where a significant amount of vegetation was removed. However, where only enough vegetation was removed to allow for boat access, impacts on fish communities were generally non-detectable. Mowing seemed to impact fish, but not invertebrates. Our data suggest that wetland fragmentation may have substantial and long lasting effects on wetland biota, but the magnitude of the impact is likely associated with the area of vegetation removed coupled with the potential for pelagic water to penetrate remaining fragments.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAquatic Ecosystem Health and Management
StatePublished - 2009


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