Treading Lightly: White Earth State Forest Interpretive Center & Nature Park
Mocnik, Benjamin K.
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Human development is the leading factor in wetland habitat loss, whether through direct removal (i.e. deforestation, draining, damming, etc.) or through inadvertent means (harmful chemicals, disruption of migration routes, interrupted feeding habits, etc.). Chemicals leaking into wetland ecosystems contaminates water supplies as well as harming the native populations, both flora and fauna, of these environments. Boardwalks, the most common method used for pedestrians in semi-aquatic environments, are chemically treated to prevent deterioration; these chemicals frequently leach into the surrounding wetlands. Sustainable ecological intervention in the White Earth State Forest wetland ecosystem in the form of an educational nature center and raised-path network can create opportunities for transformative educational and recreational activities. Wetlands provide ample natural beauty as well as a higher level of biodiversity than any other biome found in Northern Minnesota. Additionally, these unique areas tend to be accessible solely by water craft. The research undertaken will aim to provide a blueprint for successful, low-impact intervention in sensitive wetland environments. The research will also analyze which plant species are more resistant to human impact (chemical resistance, hardiness, spread, etc.) and suitable for introduction to restore vegetative communities based on additional factors such as root structure, life span, growth rate, and aesthetics. The aim of this project is to serve as an example for wetland intervention and development projects located in the coniferous and deciduous wetlands of Northern Minnesota.