Waubesa Wetlands are connected to a large upstream network of wetlands along Swan and Murphy’s creeks. In order to see how these wetlands, and ultimately the downstream Waubesa Wetlands, might be affected by new development, this project sought to understand the current state of the wetlands and the ecosystem services that they provide. Thus, this study focused on a riparian wetland complex along Swan Creek that spans upstream and downstream of the most immediate development, the Northeast Neighborhood. The riparian complex included four distinct wetland types: southern hardwood swamp, shrub-carr, southern sedge meadow, and emergent marsh.

Wetland ecosystem services were assessed along the Swan Creek corridor, highlighted in pink

The ecosystem service assessment considered the presence of eight services: human use values, floristic integrity, wildlife habitat, fish and aquatic habitat, flood and stormwater storage, shoreline protection, groundwater processes, and water quality protection.

Ecosystem Service Descriptions

Ecosystem services assessed

Overall, upstream wetlands are providing numerous services that may be buffering or protecting the downstream Waubesa Wetlands. Wetlands in the complex each provide different services to different extents, depending on factors such as wetland type and watershed position. Furthermore, synergistic relationships are found between the ecosystem services of shoreline protection, flood and stormwater storage, and water quality protection. This suggests that targeting wetland restoration for shoreline protection could likewise increase other beneficial ecosystem services.

Restoration potential for shoreline protection in the Swan Creek corridor. The primary indicator of shoreline protection is the cover of dense, persistent vegetation. These priority areas indicate locations with the greatest potential to restore vegetative cover on eroding streambanks while also enhancing co-benefits of other ecosystem services.

With additional time and resources, continued wetland and ecosystem services assessments, like the one conducted, are recommended along Murphy’s Creek to identify additional priority wetlands for restoration and conservation.