Wetlands are lands covered by fresh water all or part of the time (seasonal), typically transitional lands between terrestrial uplands and water bodies. They are the most complex fresh water ecosystems. Categories includes marshes (few trees), swamps (trees/shrubs), bogs, river banks, potholes, and floodplains. Marshes are the most common in North America.
Wetlands on Lake Wawasee and Syracuse Lake are typically lily pads, reeds, bulrushes, and cattails. Examples include Mudd Lake and areas in Johnson and Conklin Bays. They can also be solid ground that is saturated with water only part of the year.
- Wetland mapping in 1991 showed Indiana had approximately 813,000 acres.
- Forested wetlands (swamps) are the most common type in all 92 Indiana counties.
- Noble and Kosciusko have the greatest number of acres of Indiana counties, almost 7% of the State’s total wetland acreage.
- Indiana has lost over 85%, 4.7M acres of 5.6M acres since 1700’s!!
What are the Environmental Benefits of Wetlands?
They are critical for water purification, flood control, carbon sink and shoreline stability. They also are an important habitat for a large variety of wildlife species.Because of wetlands benefits to watershed health, projects affecting them are regulated by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and US Army Corps of Engineers.
How can our Watershed be Protected?
A wetland system needs to be regularly monitored to see if it is becoming degraded. Degraded wetlands will cause the Wawasee Area Watershed to suffer a loss in water quality, and good soil conditions. It will also threaten wildlife including endangered species.
Our watershed wetlands have undergone changes over the decades. For example, vegetation composition has altered so that cattails are now prominent in many cases. Wetlands loss is a big concern – photos from 1996, 2005, and 2016 appear to show wetlands receding several feet along some areas of Conklin Bay. Other areas show little loss. Further scientific research is needed to determine wetlands changes and their effects on the watershed.
*Photographs courtesy of Kosciusko County GIS Department
WACF is undertaking a new and comprehensive wetland water quality study that will allow us to focus our resources on the most critical hot spots. Find out more….
What Can You Do?
- Obey Ecozone Buoys and avoid creating big wakes near wetlands.
- Watch for inappropriate wetlands destruction by individuals or companies.
- If considering wetlands projects, make sure to apply for a required USACE “Section 404 Permit”. Indiana requires a ““Section 401 Water Quality Certification” prior to that.
Want to learn more about Indiana’s wetlands?
- Keep up-to-date with information from WACF (E-News Sign-Up) about Wawasee Area Watershed wetlands including the Education Center Enhanced Wetland Restoration Project and Wetlands Adventures for Kids!
- Look at historic photos at the Syracuse Wawasee Historical Museum to see changes to area lakes and their wetlands over the past decades.
- Indiana Department of Environmental Management – Wetlands, Lakes and Stream Regulation
Impact of Boating on Wetlands
- Direct impact from boat props
- Cutting of plant material, scouring lake bottom and uprooting plants
- Indirect impact
- Turbidity leading to decreased light penetration impacting macrophyte growth
- Increased nutrient levels —> increased algae growth
- Wave action impacts macrophyte distribution, species composition, and growth rates
- Degraded wetlands can lead to a loss in water quality, increased algae growth, and impairment/reduction of aquatic species
History of Ecozone Buoys on Lake Wawasee
- 1995: IDNR developed a non-rule policy on “Wetland Conservation Guidelines”
- 2000: state legislation established the authority to set up ecozones on public waters
- Address unusual conditions or hazards
- Fish, wildlife, or botanical resource management
- The protection of users
- 2002: Local Lake Wawasee and Syracuse Lake community with support of IDNR and other constituents established ecozones adjacent to large wetlands in lakes. Locations specified by GPS.