What is Lake St. Clair Habitat?
Habitat simply consists of land with the food resources, water and cover that a particular species needs to survive and reproduce.
Habitats can be defined or described in a number of ways. Lake St. Clair coastal habitats are delineated here on the basis of land cover,
and these land cover types fall into three broad categories: Upland,
Wetland and Water.
Why is Habitat Important?
Without adequate habitat, vulnerable species will not survive. Protecting habitat does not simply protect rare,
unique or valuable species, however. It also preserves complex natural communities that support a wide range of common species and provide
valuable ecological function. For example, a nature preserve can provide habitat for an endangered species as well as many common species
that make up a particular natural community. It may also sequester carbon, infiltrate stormwater and filter air cost-effectively. Finally,
it can provide opportunities for fishing, hiking and birdwatching - important social, economic and cultural activities for people.
Within the project area there are five globally imperiled natural communities: Great
Lakes marsh, lakeplain mesic sand prairie, lakeplain
wet mesic prairie, lakeplain wet prairie and lakeplain
oak opening. As the area continues to develop rapidly, it is critical to incorporate conservation and restoration of these rare
natural resources into the planning process.
Uplands are lands that lie above sea level where saturated soils and standing water are absent. In many ways, they are defined by
what they are not: uplands are not wetlands; they are not under water or seasonally flooded; they have non-hydric soils, and are not
moist enough for wetland plants to survive. Upland environments include a wide variety of landscape types, ranging from prairie, savanna,
mature forests such as mesic southern forest and
cultivated farms to developed lands such as cities and villages. Upland environments can include the rare and unique, such as the globally
imperiled lakeplain oak opening as well as urban
centers with minimal habitat value. Within the project area, C-CAP satellite data show over 675,000 acres (273,163 hectares) of uplands.
A variety of land cover types are classified as wetlands, ranging from wet prairie to forested swamps. Three criteria are common
to all of them; wetlands have saturated soils or are flooded for at least part of the year; wetlands often have soil conditions that
are different from those in the adjacent uplands; and wetlands contain plants which are adapted to flooding. Prior to European settlement,
the entire periphery of Lake St. Clair was surrounded by wetlands, including Great
Lakes marsh along the shoreline and wet prairie, wet
mesic prairie, meadows and forested wetlands such as floodplain
forest and southern swamp further inland. In deeper water, wild celery beds were an important source of food for migrating waterfowl.
Within the project area as a whole, C-CAP satellite data show about 51,000 acres of wetland, including forested wetlands. The majority
of the remaining wetlands are located around the northern end of Lake St. Clair.
Aquatic habitats include open surface waters which may or may not support floating aquatic vegetation. In Lake St. Clair watershed,
this includes rivers, ponds and the lake itself. These types of aquatic habitats are ecologically distinct, but all are environments
where surface water is permanent so that water, rather than air, is the principal medium within which the dominant organisms live. Lake
St. Clair is productive and provides habitats for a diverse biota including invertebrates, fish, mammals, and waterfowl. The historical
fish communities in Lake St. Clair contained abundant lake
sturgeon and runs of coldwater fishes, including lake trout, lake whitefish, and lake herring, that once supported commercial fishing
in the lake. Many of the native fishes have been eliminated by commercial fishing, habitat destruction, wetland losses, introduction
of exotic fishes, invasion by exotic species, and degradation of water and substrate quality. Links to detailed information on numerous
rare aquatic species in the project area are included in the Aquatic Animals section of the Habitat