by Carolina Gamboa
What are wetlands? According to The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), wetlands are areas where water covers the soil, or is present either at or near the surface of the soil all year, or for varying periods of time during the year, including during the growing season. Wetlands vary widely because of regional and local differences in soils, topography, climate, hydrology, water chemistry, vegetation, and other factors, including human disturbance. Indeed, wetlands are found from the tundra to the tropics on every continent except Antarctica.
The types of wetlands we will come across in the Schaumburg area are inland wetlands. According to the EPA, these are most common on floodplains along rivers and streams, in isolated depressions surrounded by dry land (for example playas, basin, and “pot holes”), along the margins of lakes and ponds, and in other low lying areas where ground water intercepts the soil. Inland wetlands include marshes and wet meadows dominated by shrubs, and wooded swamps dominated by trees. It is important to note that some wetlands are seasonal.
In Schaumburg, Palatine, Hoffman Estates, and Hanover Park, you can mainly find fresh water pond, freshwater emergent, and freshwater forested/shrub wetlands. The guidelines below are set by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service.
- Freshwater pond wetlands, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, include all non-tidal wetlands dominated by trees, shrubs emergent, mosses, lichens and all such wetlands that occur in tidal areas. They are less than 20 acres, and do not have active wave-formed bedrock shoreline features. They also have low water — less than six feet, and have a salinity due to ocean-derived salts less than 0.5 ppt.
- Fresh water emergent wetlands include tidal wetlands dominated by trees, emergent shrubs, mosses, lichens and all such wetlands that occur in tidal areas, and are less than 20 acres. They are mainly characterized by erect rooted, herbaceous hydrophytes, excluding moss and lichens. This vegetation is present for most of the growing season. These wetlands are usually dominated by perennial plants. This wetland is seasonally flooded with surface water that is present for extended periods, especially early in the growing season, but is absent by the end of the growing season for most years. They also have a partially drained ditch; consequently, wetlands with a ditch or drainage network, or wetlands adjacent to the ditches even if the ditch is too small, should be included in the delineations.
- Freshwater forested/shrub wetlands include all tidal wetlands dominated by trees, shrubs emergent, mosses lichens and all such wetlands that occur in tidal areas, and are less than 20 acres. In addition they are dominated by woody vegetation.
Familiar wetland locations in Schaumburg and the surrounding suburbs can be located thanks to this Wetlands Mapper from the US Fish and Wildlife Service. This resource allows one to locate a specific town and search for wetlands within it. The Schaumburg Golf Club, Schaumburg High School, as well as Keller Jr. High School are some of the areas with substantial wetlands. In nearby Hoffman Estates, you can find them in Poplar Creek Country Club and Alexian Field, which is between Hanover Park and Roselle. Interestingly, the majority of the areas that have wetlands are heavily developed. One area which caught my eye is located on a main road next to a parking lot full of buses. They are fully developed and it appears the wetland is under the concrete.
Understanding wetlands’ role in the suburban landscape requires an ecological perspective. In May of 2004 the Village of Schaumburg devised a biodiversity recovery plan. Essentially it came up with five categories they felt needed to be saved, including wetlands. This report notes the importance of wetlands and how they have been destroyed by development. The Woodfield Business Center wetland is an area that would be ideal for restoring because of its size. Currently, it has some native plants with patches of canary grass, common reed and cattail. The Village is looking to get rid of nonnative species and plant all native species. In doing so, birds and other animals will start coming back to the area. In addition they hope the plan can enhance ecosystem function while also serving as a connection to nearby open spaces, such as village in the park.
It is important to continue preserving wetlands because they are vital to the environment. Wetlands serve as groundwater recharge when they filter water. For example, in Schaumburg they filter the water from the golf course, the school fields and any runoff water. According to the Biodiversity report, though, Schaumburg’s wetlands have been significantly modified over time. The groundwater table has been lowered and in turn the high proportion of paved surfaces within the Village does not allow the proper filtration of the water into the soil.
Overall, it is important to know what a wetland is and the purpose it serves. When you can make the connection and know what purpose wetlands serve to the environment and your health they become worth preserving. It’s vital that we learn how to co-exist within our environment and how simple modifications can make a difference.
Next page: Value and Conservation of Wetlands