Great Lakes Wisconsin Wetlands

Great Lakes Communities and Ecosystems at RiskThe Region 

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Climate Change Impacts:
Wetlands and Shorebirds

Wetlands are ecosystems that are inundated at least part of the year. These areas support water-tolerant vegetation and water-dependent organisms. Nearly two-thirds of the Great Lakes region's original wetlands have already been destroyed, thus eliminating the important wetland functions of water cleansing, flood control, sediment trapping, fish spawning, and provision of wildlife habitat.

Earlier spring runoff, more intense flooding, and lower summer water levels generally translate into growing challenges for Wisconsin wetlands. Already development and agriculture have significantly reduced wetland habitat. Combined with the increasing pressures of climate change, the services that wetlands provide stand to be considerably degraded. Among the potential impacts of climate change with implications for wetlands and shorebirds in Wisconsin are:

  • A Reduction of Flood-Absorbing Capacity
    The combined pressures of development and climate change will degrade the flood-absorbing capacity of wetlands and floodplains. This could lead to increased erosion, additional water pollution, and delayed recovery from acid rain.

  • A Loss of Safe Breeding Sites
    Allouez Bay, WisconsinChanges in flood patterns, as well as losses of productive estuaries such as Green Bay and in inland marshes such Horicon National Wildlife Refuge, will likely reduce safe breeding sites for amphibians, migratory shorebirds, some warblers, and waterfowl.

Photo Credits:
Leopard Frog -- John Maguson.
Allouez Bay, Wisconsin -- John J. Magnuson.

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