Horicon Marsh

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Horicon Marsh is a freshwater marsh in Dodge County, Wisconsin. The marsh is thirty-two thousand acres, making it the largest freshwater marsh in the United States.[1] The marsh has become a wetland ecosystem, directing most of its attention on restoring the population of endangered species. The secondary focus is on a preservation area for ducks and geese.[2] It is a popular area for tourists and birdwatchers as it contains hiking and snowshoe trails that can be used at anytime of year. The extensive amount of wildlife bring in many school field trips and individuals who do not get a chance to see wildlife in its natural habitat.


History

The marsh started as an area for economic opportunity. A dam was built in 1846 to allow shipping in the newly flooded marsh. Landowners surrounding the area were opposed to this new use for the marsh and the dam was removed in 1869, turning the area back into a wetland.[3] Although the wetland habitat increased the number of geese and ducks, hunters quickly decimated the populations of these birds from the marsh. By 1900 nearly all ducks had disappeared from Horicon Marsh.[4]


From 1910 to 1916, an attempt to farm the land started. The marsh was drained in order to achieve farmable land. This attempt failed and for the next twelve years fires burned on and off. The fires caused the marsh to be destroyed. The State of Wisconsin purchased the land in 1927 to restore it as a wetland ecosystem.[5]

Landscapes

Horicon Marsh is known for its marshy landscape, but also contains prairies and forests. The marshy area covers over 15,000 acres of Horicon Marsh, containing cattails, long grasses, and smart weed flowers. European carp are harmful to the natural environment of the marsh; they uproot plants and stir up sediment in the water. This leads to poor water quality for other species found in this area. Purple loosestrife is an invasive plant that competes with native plants often times killing them. This causes less biodiversity within the marsh environment.[6]

The prairie is an important landscape found in Horicon Marsh. It provides areas for nesting birds and conserves water and stabilizes the soil due to its long grass. Without the prairies there would be limited areas for many animals to live, decreasing the wildlife found in the area. Plants threatening the prairies include wild parsnips and Dame's rockets.[7] Wild parsnip is an invasive species that can grow in many different areas. It can be dangerous to humans as well, if the sap contacts skin it can cause severe rash or burning. Dame's rocket is also an invasive species that starts small and quickly spreads throughout an entire area. These plants threaten the native plants found in the prairies and could affect the natural processes already found in the prairie.[8]

The forests are not as widespread throughout Horicon Marsh compared to the other landscapes. Even though they are small, they are still important in the natural environment of Horicon Marsh. The woodlands provide shelter for wildlife including warblers and woodpeckers. The forest is also an area where multiple varieties of wildflowers grow. The invasive species within the woodlands include buckthorn and garlic mustard.[9] Buckthorn can grow almost anywhere. It creates dense shade which affects the growth of other trees within the forest. Garlic mustard releases a chemical into the soil causing disruptions in growth of native plants.[10]

Animal Life

Horicon Marsh is known for its wide variety of animal life. Birds are the most common visitors to the marsh. Canadian geese can be found throughout the marsh during their migratory flight. Two hundred thousand Canadian geese were reported arriving at Horicon Marsh throughout their fall migration.[11] More than 268 other bird species have been spotted at Horicon Marsh.[12] The variety of other birds include mallards, wood ducks, trumpeter swans redheaded ducks, red-winged blackbirds, and sand-hill cranes. For many of these birds, Horicon Marsh is the largest protected nesting area.[13]

Horicon Marsh is also home to muskrats, the red fox, turtles, and fish, among other animals. The muskrats are a crucial part of managing the natural resources within the marsh. Muskrats are considered "marsh managers" because they clean out areas of cattails to allow room for waterfowl to feed in the marsh. They do this by swimming around in the cattails, feeding on them, and building their homes of "cattail huts."[14]


References

  1. Brunner, Susan, and Jennee Harmuth. Images of America: Horicon and Horicon Marsh. Arcadia Publishing, 2009.
  2. Volkert, William K. "Horicon Marsh." The American Midwest, Indiana University Press, 2007.
  3. Volkert, William K. "Horicon Marsh." The American Midwest, Indiana University Press, 2007.
  4. Heinrich, James W., and Scott R. Craven. "The Economic Impact of Canada Geese at the Horicon Marsh, Wisconsin." Wildlife Society Bulletin, vol. 20, no.4, Winter 1992. pp 364-371.
  5. Volkert, William K. "Horicon Marsh." The American Midwest, Indiana University Press, 2007.
  6. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Wildlife and Habitat. 2013. https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Horicon/wildlife_and_habitat/index.html.
  7. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Wildlife and Habitat. 2013. https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Horicon/wildlife_and_habitat/index.html.
  8. Department of Natural Resources. Invasive Species. 2018. https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/invasives/.
  9. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Wildlife and Habitat. 2013. https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Horicon/wildlife_and_habitat/index.html.
  10. Department of Natural Resources. Invasive Species. 2018. https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/invasives/.
  11. Department of Natural Resources. Horicon Marsh. 2016. https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/lands/WildlifeAreas/horicon/
  12. Volkert, William K. "Horicon Marsh." The American Midwest, Indiana University Press, 2007.
  13. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Horicon. 2018. https://www.fws.gov/refuge/horicon/.
  14. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Wildlife and Habitat. 2013. https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Horicon/wildlife_and_habitat/index.html.


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