July 2015

PHNRC Summer Classes Continue.

The Natural Resources Commission / Park District Summer classes continue in July with a "Summer Evening Wetland Walk". 

Have you ever wondered why the Slough is called a "slough"? Do you want to know more about wetlands, their history, ecology or what is important about the habitat that they provide?

Spend an evening with restoration ecologist Izabella Redlinski learning about the importance of wetlands. Formal instruction and discussion will be followed by a walk around the slough during sunset, observing the fauna and flora while discussing ecology and restoration efforts of one of the last remaining natural wetlands in the Chicagoland area.

The class will meet and leave from the Gary Morava Recreation Center picnic shelter.

Two dates are offered, #14036 - Wednesday July 29th from 6:00 to 8:00 pm and #14037 - Friday July 31st from 6:00 to 8:00 pm.

The fee is $10.00 and registration may be done by calling the park district at 847.394.2848 or online at Walking registration may be done at the Park District office between 6:30 am and 5:00 pm.

IDNR to Conduct New Fish Survey

On Wednesday, July 22nd  2015, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, (IDNR) fisheries Biologist Frank Jakubicek and his team will be doing a fish survey at the Slough and Hillcrest Lake.  They will go out in a boat with volunteers and sample the species of fish that are present and their abundance.

Algae, duckweed and other submerged vegetation have become more abundant due to an increase in runoff nutrients. The Natural Resources Commission has done simple water quality analysis which shows an increase in the phosphorous load. Phosphorous and other nutrients are finding their way to the Slough in greater amounts most likely because of the increased runoff from recent drainage improvements.

Adding to the problem and the nutrient load is the overabundance of nonnative carp. Carp are known to be bottom feeders that significantly stir up sediment and uproot plants. Under normal circumstances, sediment binds phosphorous, making it partially unavailable to aquatic plants. As the carp stir up sediment, especially during the spawning season, the phosphorous gets re-released back into the water column. The sediment also becomes re-suspended, making the water very murky and dense, blocking sunlight from the plants at the bottom.

Recently, the commission placed 200 feet  of carp “exclosures”; simple fences placed several feet from the shoreline. These were placed  there to prevent the carp from uprooting the aquatic vegetation that was to be planted as part of the ComEd Green Regions grant execution. Commissioners were surprised to see that long suppressed native aquatic vegetation started to grow on its own inside of the exclosure, and the water was notably clearer after just a couple of weeks.

Nonnative carp have been present at the Slough for decades. Mr. Jakubicek presented the Commission with a fish survey that had been performed in 1972. Interesting to note is that the water depth at the Slough was only 3 feet deep 43 years ago, not much different than It is today. At that time, the fish survey showed that there were green sunfish, black bullhead, black crappie, bluegill, goldfish and carp. These species are among the few that can tolerate such shallow water and the Slough conditions that were present back in 1972.

Since then, the water quality at the Slough has degraded due to road salt runoff, fertilizer runoff and other non point source pollution sources that are finding their way into the Slough every day. Additionally, the fish that may be found there today, may be significantly different than that of the historical record.  Once the habitat has been changed, it often changes the inhabitants that can tolerate the new conditions.

Carp, is a species that can tolerate the worst of the worst conditions and it is the opinion of PHNRC, that the numbers of carp have increased and as a result, displacing many other species.

In 1973, carp made up exactly 33% of the fish population that was sampled. If that percentage has increased, it is east to see how they are contributing to the complicated web of problems that the Slough is facing. If carp are found to be in greater numbers and very few other species are found during the new survey, partially removing the carp may be a part of a practical and partial solution.

Carp removal can benefit in several ways. It will allow sediment to settle down, allow more sunlight to reach the bottom, promoting a more equal distribution of aquatic plant growth. It would also decrease the amount of nutrients that are available to algae and allow more  shoreline plants to grow which would stabilize the shoreline and decrease the rate of erosion.

We will be posting the results of this new IDNR fish survey in the August Resources Journal.  It is important to remember that the Slough and Hillcrest Lake have many problems, carp over population is just one of them. The PHNRC remains dedicated to discovering and rectifying those problems that degrade the health and well being of all of our Natural Resources.

Biodiversity at the Slough

Many have noticed the dramatic changes from Buckthorn removal at the Slough. Although there is still much work to be done, the bare, black ground that was under thickets of buckthorn and contributing to runoff and erosion is now slowly becoming vegetated. Sunlight has found its way again to the ground flora, and we are seeing the seed bank respond with new species that haven’t been seen in decades.

Some of these are early successional plants, that come in after soil disturbance. They are important plants ecologically, because they stabilize and hold the soil, in preparation for the plants that come in later.  Some of these “pioneer” plants are what many might  call “weeds”. In the garden they may be, but in a natural area they are key players in bringing back ecological stability. Many are annual species of plants that also provide a great deal of food for waterfowl and other animals, such as smartweeds, or plants in the Persicaria genus. 
Persicaria Pennsylvania “big seeded smartweed”                  Persicaria Hidropiper “Waterpepper”
Images courtesy of Dr. John Hilty 
    Bidens Frondosa, or “beggar’s ticks”             Cyperus strigosus “straw colored flatsedge”
     Geum canadense “white avens”                         Erigeron strigosus “daisy fleabane”
Apocynum sibericum “common dogbane”              Sambucus canadensis “elderberry bush”
These native pioneer species of plants are providing invaluable food and shelter to wildlife and increasing the biodiversity around the Slough. If you take a stroll down Hillside Ave, you may have noticed how many more insects, butterflies and birds can now be found there.

Although many have noticed the happenings along Hillside Ave, some may not have noticed the changes from the other side of the Slough, accessible from Isaac Walton Park. 

PHNRC has been slowly removing large pockets of invasive reed canary grass. Reed canary grass used to form a monoculture, a carpet of only one invasive grass, seen for acres from Isaac Walton. All other plant species were choked out by this invasive grass. After just two year of management, one can find native sedges, rushes and forbs where reed canary once was left unchecked.

There are dozens of species of native plants that have had the opportunity to bounce back, with new species being uncovered all of the time. One such plant is Asclepias incarnata, or “swamp milkweed”. Milkweeds are the host plant for the Monarch butterfly. As the butterflies make their long migration spanning thousands of miles, they depend on native milkweeds for nectar and breeding. Two species of milkweeds are now increasingly abundant at the Slough, and for those who may have noticed, Monarchs have also become more abundant.

Waterfowl have also been using areas that they did not usually frequent before, as well as many reptiles and amphibians. Increasing the biodiversity of the plant community around the Slough has benefited the wildlife that have depended on it for thousands of years. Wildlife has evolving alongside an enormous number of native plants, some specializing on only one species of plant, such as the Monarch. Click here if you want to read more about biodiversity within the Chicago Wilderness region 

Green Infrastructure Mapping Workshop for
Des Plaines River Communities to be hosted in Prospect Heights !!!

On Tuesday, July 21, 2015, officials from Des Plaines, Glenview, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Prospect Heights, and Wheeling will convene at the Prospect Heights Library to help identify and define, opportunity areas in their communities for green infrastructure strategies that can help address local flooding problems, enhance wildlife habitat value, and reduce impacts to the Des Plaines River system.

Chicago Wilderness and several partners are completing a cross-jurisdictional green infrastructure study. The first phase of this project mapped each region’s “core green infrastructure,” which is the interconnected network of public and private open space and natural resources that conserves ecosystem functions, sustains clean air and water, and provides trails and greenways that benefit people and wildlife. This was done in consultation with the natural resource organizations and agencies familiar with the resources in each area, including Forest Preserves of Cook County, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Illinois Nature Preserves Commission, The Field Museum, Audubon–Chicago Region, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) and many others.

The next and final phase involves working with Conservation Design Forum to identify “opportunity areas” across the City of Prospect Heights that that may benefit from localized green infrastructure strategies integrated into the built environment such as street right of way, parking lots, small parks or vacant land parcels and neighborhood areas.

The intent is to identify opportunity areas where native landscaping, bioretention basins and planters, and permeable paving solutions that utilize natural processes to control runoff volumes, flow rates and filter pollutants may be implemented.  Incorporating these kinds of solutions can help to address nuisance level neighborhood flooding and drainage problems and reduce watershed impacts to the Des Plaines River, its tributaries, and other aquatic resources  utilizing localized green infrastructure practices.

PHNRC Launches New Speaking Series 

The Prospect Heights Natural Resources Commission is pleased to announce a new speaking series in partnership with the Prospect Heights Public Library. "Nature Speaks", will be a series of prominent national and regional speakers presenting topics of great interest and importance on matters of habitat, the environment, restoration and ecology.

Nature Speaks will feature four guest speakers per year, one each season with presentations taking place at the Prospect Heights Public Library. 

Information about the series and the upcoming speakers will be available on the website, in the very near future. The events will also be featured on the newly redesigned events calendar.
Copyright © 2015 Prospect Heights Natural Resources Commission, All rights reserved.

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