An environmental project at the Rieck Center for Habitat Studies, The University of Findlay’s 55-acre nature preserve located south of Findlay at 17311Township Road 166, is completed, and is expected to produce valuable results about floodwater filtration and collection.
Funded with a $93,316 grant, received in 2014 from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the work created a space for the natural filtering and treatment of water runoff from nearby agricultural fields. A 7-acre floodplain wetland complex was restored and enhanced; a gently-sloped ditch was created to direct runoff into an existing, constructed wetland; and less than one acre near a pond was redeveloped into an emergent wetland habitat. Reconstruction and improvement also included plantings of native wetland vegetation.
Vegetation and land use planning work was conducted for free by the Hancock Soil and Water Conservation District. Phil Martin with the Blanchard River Watershed Partnership served as a subject matter expert.
The project’s purpose is to reduce sediment and phosphorous loadings from agricultural runoff, and nutrient loading into the Blanchard River watershed. Excess nutrients can cause excessive aquatic plant growth, which can potentially harm other plant and animal species.
The project is also expected to benefit additional native species.
Benjamin Dolan, Ph.D., an associate professor of biology at UF who uses the Rieck Center to teach and to conduct his own studies, said prior to wetland construction that the University hopes to “have it serve as a demonstration for marginal lands that flood, for places where crops can’t be grown but that can be used to help reduce flooding in other areas.”
Dolan said it will take years for vegetation to become established well enough to have any impact on nutrients and sediment. A wetland biologist from the Ohio EPA visited the site before construction started to collect baseline data, and he or another biologist “will return in about four years to collect additional data that will help determine the functionality of the wetland,” Dolan explained.
Meanwhile, the site will continue to serve as an educational component for visiting classes and public events. It is also open to the public throughout the year for viewing.
For more information about the Rieck Center for Habitat Studies, contact Benjamin Dolan, Ph.D., associate professor of biology, at (419) 434-5530 or at email@example.com.