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EcoSummit 2012 E-Newsletter: May 2012

Connecting a City to its Natural Treasures

Imagine a water purification system that requires little human intervention. Examples would include trees, tall grasses and other vegetation that filter runoff, return streams to their natural state, and create a destination for animals and humans alike. Can these natural treasures flourish in the urban setting?

Conference attendees will learn about restoration efforts in the heart of Columbus when they participate in the field trip Urban River Restoration-The Olentangy/Scioto Ecosystem Corridor.

Recently unveiled plans call for the removal of an eight-foot dam that holds back water on the Olentangy River near The Ohio State University campus. Farther downstream, after the Olentangy River flows into the Scioto River, another dam would be removed in the heart of downtown Columbus. Removal of the dams would open up acres of old river bottoms that would become parks and wetlands.

Professor William Mitsch, who will lead the field trip, is the director of the Wilma H. Schiermeier Olentangy River Wetland Research Park, a research and teaching wetland on Ohio State’s campus. Mitsch says he wants people to know that rivers can be restored. “These riverside forests are our tropical rainforest,” Mitsch says. “They are often called bottomland hardwood forests because the rivers create and subsidize a rich environment for plants, animals, and microbes. They are the closest thing we have to a rainforest.” 

Mitsch also wants people to know that rivers are more than a conduit to move water and goods downstream. “I also want people to understand that rivers flood, leaving behind rich sediments that nourish our hardwood wetlands. By channeling our rivers, we’re only moving flooding and water quality problems downstream.”

The tour will begin at the Wetland Research Park, the only wetland research facility on a university campus anywhere in the world. Mitsch says a visit here will demonstrate that wetlands are able to be very productive with only a minimum of human intervention.

“Just let them go,” Mitsch says. “Let nature take care of itself. We need these in our city areas.  Nature is pretty smart. She can take care of herself.”

For more information on EcoSummit 2012 field trips, click here.

See other articles in the May 2012 newsletter:

- Ecological Sustainability: Restoring the Planet’s Ecosystem Services
- Nobel Winner to Address EcoSummit 2012
- Welcome to Columbus
- The Role of the Business Community in Restoring our Ecosystems

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