Lower Grand River Watershed Wetlands Initiative: Project Overview

Project Overview

Lower Grand River Wetland

As its objective the project investigated how wetland resources in the Lower Grand River Watershed (LGRW) have changed in geographic extent over the decades since Pre-European settlement of the region, and how this change has impacted the ecological services provided by these wetlands. Fortunately, this project took place at the same time the Lower Grand River Watershed Management Plan was being revised and updated. As a result, it was possible to include the wetland assessment as part of the watershed management planning process, which will give added attention and a strategic response to the need for preservation and restoration of valued wetland resources.

The landscape level assessment approach used was derived from the Watershed-based Preliminary Assessment of Wetland Function (W-PAWF) technique developed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services Northeast Region. This technique applies general knowledge about wetlands and their functions to produce a watershed profile highlighting wetlands of potential significance for a variety of functions. This type of analysis assumes that given sufficient information on geomorphic setting, water source, and water movement, it should be possible to make reasonable judgments on how these physical properties can be translated into wetland functions. The process was applied to the entire 2,909 square miles of the LGRW. For three subwatersheds (Rogue River, Spring Lake, and Dickerson Creek) in the basin, the results of this process were used to create Wetland Action Plans that established priorities for specific conservation and restoration activities.


Project Highlights

  • The LGRW has lost approximately 42% of its original wetland resources
  • The most abundant vegetated wetlands today are the forested wetlands (108,274 acres or 56% of all vegetated wetlands). The watershed has lost 233,545 acres of forested wetlands, a 68% reduction from Pre-European settlement times
  • In terms of the loss of wetland acreage by ecosystem function the most impacted ecological services are: 1) interior forest bird habitat; 2) floodwater storage; 3) nutrient transformation; 4) sediment and other particulate retention; and 5) stream shading
  • In terms of the loss of functional capacity the most impacted ecological services are: 1) sediment and other particulate retention; 2) interior forest bird habitat; 3) stream shading; 4) floodwater storage; and 5) nutrient transformation


Project Area

Current Lower Grand River Watershed Wetlands

The Lower Grand River Watershed (LGRW) drains approximately 2,909 square miles from the confluence of the Grand River and the Looking Glass River near the City of Portland to the mouth of the Grand River in Grand Haven, where it enters Lake Michigan. The LGRW encompasses large portions of Ottawa, Muskegon, Kent, Montcalm, Ionia, Barry, and Eaton Counties. The LGRW contains two urban areas: the Grand Rapids Metropolitan area and the Muskegon Metropolitan area. Since Pre- European settlement, approximately 42% of wetlands have been lost in the LGRW. The functional loss of those wetlands is unknown, thus a watershed-wide wetland strategy is needed to protect and preserve the existing wetlands and identify priority areas for wetlands restoration. Click image for larger map (5.22 MB Adobe PDF)


Project Overview/Area Project Reports Project Atlas Project Team