Marsh wren

Emergent Marshes Support Biodiversity

Part of a series on CILTI’s conservation targets by guest blogger Ed Pope

We all know how important wetlands are. They provide food and habitat for all kinds of plants and animals, while filtering excess nutrients and sediment from surface runoff. At one time a significant portion of Indiana was wetlands. Before most of it was drained for agriculture, the Grand Kankakee Marsh in northwest Indiana was the second largest marshland in the United States. It was often referred to as “The Everglades of the North.”

There are several kinds of marshes. In an emergent marsh, herbaceous (non-woody) plants root in soil at the bottom of the marsh and send up foliage above the water. Emergent marshes are often divided into shallow and deep categories. Shallow marshes have water levels up to six inches during the growing season. Deep emergent marshes range from six inches to three feet in water depth. Both of these can be seasonal and dry out during portions of the year.

Emergent marshes support great biodiversity, since they provide ample food, water and cover. Common plants found in emergent marshes include cattails, bulrushes and arrowhead. Animals such as mink, muskrat, frogs, turtles, snakes and crayfish can be found in and around marshes. Young fish frequent marshes connected to open water, where they are safe from larger fish. The state-endangered marsh wren also can find sanctuary among the reeds and cattails in an emergent marsh.

The core conservation areas of Central Indiana include two emergent marshes:

  • Mill Road Marsh and Fen (Henry County) – Home to the state-endangered marsh wren
  • Sand Pond (Parke County) – Home to acid loving plants such as cinnamon fern, sphagnum moss and royal fern

Sand Pond is currently unprotected, while Mill Road Marsh and Fen will require buffering.

Ed Pope

Guest Blogger

Ed Pope is a retired engineer from Rolls-Royce and a CILTI member since 2002.