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Great Lakes Article:

Wetlands research results show invasion
Hybrid cattail found to be swarming locally
By Heather Augustyn
Northwest Indiana Times
Published February 2, 2006

PORTER | The second day of February is traditionally reserved for the groundhog.

But the groundhog's fellow wildlife friends may be celebrating a different holiday in honor of their habitat -- World Wetlands Day, which marks the date the Convention on Wetlands was signed in 1971.

First celebrated in 1997, World Wetlands Day makes aware the issues of wetland conservation and preservation around the globe. And here at home, much is being done to steward our own resources in the acres of unique landscape.

Joy Marburger, research coordinator at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and her colleagues have just completed preliminary research at Cowles Bog, one of the more well-known wetlands in Porter County.

Research suggests that an invasive species of cattail has spread and created a hybrid that dominates the habitat.

"This two-year project is aimed squarely at uncovering the role of hybridization in the spread of cattails in three Great Lakes national parks," said Marburger, who used material from more than 700 cattails collected in the area and other wetlands.

"The overall situation has apparently progressed to the level of what plant biologists commonly refer to as a 'hybrid swarm' throughout much of the Great Lakes region," Marburger said.

She said that the hybrid is a combination of the invasive narrowleaf cattail, which likely came via ship from Europe in the 1800s and spread slowly to the Midwest, and the native broadleaf cattail. The hybrid was first discovered in the 1960s, but its prominence has not been studied until recently.

"The message from this research is that hybridization may provide an important piece of the puzzle in the cause of the invasive spread of cattails across the Great Lakes national parks," Marburger said. "Nutrient runoff from urban and agricultural lands, as well as flood control, may also be contributing factors in the spread of hybrid cattails."

Researchers will now consider next steps.

Dan Mason, botanist at the Indiana Dunes National Park, and his team are actively removing the hybrid cattail and replanting native wetland plant species.

Volunteer help has been an integral part of this restoration.

"More ecological testing will be needed to piece it all together, but ultimately resource managers will be provided with a clearer understanding of what they must do to preserve the genetic integrity of the pure native cattail and to control the unwanted spread of hybrid cattails in an effort to maintain and enhance wetland biodiversity throughout the Great Lakes region," Marburger said.


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