Agriculture and urbanization have altered the hydrology and water quality of the coastal wetland complex along the shore of Lake Michigan at the Spring Bluff Nature Preserve and Illinois Beach State Park in northeastern Lake County, Ill., and the adjacent Chiwaukee Prairie State Natural Area in southeastern Wisconsin. Culverts, roads, ditches, and berms installed within the wetland complex have altered the natural directions of surface-water flow and likely have increased the natural hydroperiod in the Spring Bluff Nature Preserve and decreased it in the northern part of the Illinois Beach State Park. Relative to presettlement conditions, surface-water runoff into the wetlands likely is greater in quantity and higher in concentrations of several constituents, including chloride, nitrate, phosphorous, and suspended sediment. These constituent concentrations are affected by a variety of factors, including the amount of agricultural and urban land use in the watersheds. Hydrologic, chemical, and biologic processes within the wetland communities reduce the concentrations of these constituents in surface water before the water discharges to Lake Michigan by as much as 75 percent for chloride, 85 percent for nitrate, 66 percent for phosphorous, and more than an order of magnitude for suspended sediment. However, concentrations of phosphorous and suspended sediment in surface water increased within parts of the wetland complex. Given these changes, the floristic quality of these wetlands has been altered from the historic condition. Specifically, Typha spp. and Phragmites australis occur in greater numbers and over a larger area than in the past. The spread of Typha spp. and Phragmites australis appears to be enhanced by anthropogenic alterations within the wetland complex, such as increased water levels and duration of inundation and, possibly, increases in the total concentration of dissolved constituents in water.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Hydrology, Water Quality, and Causes of Changes in Vegetation in the Vicinity of the Spring Bluff Nature Preserve, Lake County, Illinois, May 2007-August 2008