Pottawatomie Marsh Undergoes Prescribed Burn
The Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway (ODCMG) conducted a prescribed burn this week (April 15) in conjunction with other efforts to continue improving wildlife habitat and sediment capture within the Pottawatomie marsh.
After the successful prescribed fire in 2012, PlantWise LLC from Ann Arbor was contracted again to manage a second round of prescribed burning this spring. PlantWise, a highly respected organization in the field of ecological restoration, has conducted prescribed fires throughout the state including burns for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Zeeland Public Schools, Herman Miller Inc., ODCMG, and many more organizations.
The focus of the prescribed fire is to combat non-native species such as Phragmites, Purple Loosestrife and Reed Canary grass all of which decrease the biodiversity of the marsh and reduce the water filtration and floodplain effectiveness of the wetland area.
The spring prescribed fire has a more dramatic result on these species as their growing season begins earlier than the native species of plants in the marsh keeping the burn from eliminating the species that are more desirable vegetation for the habitat.
Removing the non-native species with the aid of a prescribed fire allows these areas to be reclaimed by native plants and will improve the function of the marsh as a river filter.
Native plants provide better wildlife habitat by providing higher quality food sources and cover to raise young.
The native plants are also more efficient at trapping nutrients and sediment which helps to ease downstream sediment issues.
The non-native species have no natural competitors in the marsh and this has allowed for rapid growth and has negatively altered the marsh habitat and wildlife community.
The loss of native habitat forces wildlife to find other areas to live and to raise young depleting the diversity of the marsh community.
The goal of the prescribed fire is to restore a natural balance to the Pottawatomie Marsh that not only benefits the wildlife that inhabits it, but also the people who enjoy recreational activities on the river and those who live downstream from the marsh.
The burn team worked with the area fire departments, Department of Natural Resources, and the ODCMG staff to insure that the burn was conducted appropriately.
For more information about how the prescribed burn was handled and its impact, contact Dougg Wright at the Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway at (616) 393-9453.