Why Wetlands Matter

Wetlands are among the most biologically productive ecosystems in the world. They increase plant, bird and wildlife variety, improve water quality, raise salmon and trout populations, recharge our aquifers, and protect our communities from flooding. Wetlands, such as the North Pikes Creek Wetlands, are important for many reasons, including as….

A stopover site for birds. Migratory birds, including both game and non-game species, regularly move between summer breeding grounds and wintering areas, some travelling as much as 500 miles a day. Migratory birds use rest stops, known as stopover sites, along the way. Wetlands provide the preferred stopover sites that birds use for rest, food, and recharge on their long journey. Thousands of landbirds and hundreds of raptors use the North Pikes Creek Wetlands landscape for resting, refueling, and staging for their journey around, or across, Lake Superior.

A base of the food chain. Algae and aquatic plants grow in the nutrient rich water of beaver ponds. This organic material supports microscopic organisms, which are eaten by a variety of invertebrates. These become food for fish, birds and mammals. An entire food chain is created in the North Pikes Creek Wetlands’ beaver ponds.

A nursery for young. Wetland habitats support 32% of Wisconsin’s threatened and endangered species. Approximately 50 bird species rely on shrub/scrub and young forest habitats surrounding wetlands at some point in their life cycle. The North Pikes Creek Wetlands’ beaver ponds, wetlands, and ephemeral ponds provide the appropriate habitat needed for a wide variety of birds, fishes, reptiles, amphibians, and bats to breed and raise their young.

A flood buffer. An acre of wetlands can store as much as 1.5 million gallons of floodwaters. North Pikes Creek and its wetlands lie in a nearly mile wide valley that receives, absorbs, and controls outflow of a significant amount of water runoff from three directions. The wetlands serve to slow the velocity and control the volume of this substantial runoff, which lessens flooding and reduces bank erosion downstream.

A water filtration system. Wetlands break down pollutants from water runoff- purifying and cleansing the water that flows downstream and eventually into Lake Superior’s Chequamegon Bay. Wetlands also protect downstream spawning areas from sedimentation, including North Pikes Creek, a Class I trout stream that harbors a self-sustaining population of brook trout. Less than one mile south of the Wetlands, North Pikes Creek flows into the 1,400-acre DNR-owned South Shore Lake Superior Fish and Wildlife Area, an important nursery for coho and Chinook salmon, and steelhead, rainbow, brown, and brook trout.

Groundwater recharge. The North Pikes Creek wetland is a recharge-discharge wetland that functions like a giant sponge. The wetland absorbs and holds snowmelt and runoff, which percolates slowly into the ground, refills the aquifer in the recharge cycle, and releases water from the aquifer during dry periods. In the discharge cycle, the wetlands provide cool water to the lower creek, which is an essential requirement for the trout fishery during summer months, and for local fruit farmers who depend on the aquifer for irrigation.

A valuable educational resource. The wetlands provide an opportunity to study a prime example of one of the most biologically productive ecosystems in the world. The North Pikes Creek Wetlands can serve as an accessible wetland education classroom and living laboratory for local K-12 students, youth groups, community groups, and researchers, and can serve to nurture the next generation of environmental stewards.

An opportunity for community recreation. Along with other benefits, the wetlands offer an opportunity to experience a natural environment and view wildlife. Once safe access is provided, the North Pikes Creek Wetlands will offer a variety of outdoor recreation opportunities for both the local community and visitors to the region, including nature appreciation, wildlife viewing, bird watching, photography, hiking, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, hunting, and fishing. Enjoyment and appreciation of forests and streams, and native fish and wildlife, improves the health and quality of life of the community.