- Research & Collections Center, Springfield
Brown Bag presented by K. Douglas Blodgett, Director of River Conservation, Illinois Chapter of The Nature Conservancy
In large-floodplain river ecosystems, dynamic relationships between rivers and their floodplains contribute to ecological processes and habitats that often sustain phenomenal diversity and abundance; such was the case for the pristine Illinois River ecosystem. However, nearly a century ago, almost half of the river’s natural floodplain was isolated by levees and drained. This greatly reduced or even eliminated many of the ecosystem services (e.g., wildlife habitat, flood storage, nutrient processing, etc.) the intact floodplain had provided for nature and people. In 2007, after six years of planning and site preparation, The Nature Conservancy began restoration of functional floodplain at its 6,700-acre Emiquon Preserve along the Illinois River just above its confluence with the Spoon River in Fulton County. As water returned to Emiquon, luxuriant native wetland plant communities were reestablished with concurrent return of wildlife including over 30 fish and 280 bird species and peak one-day waterfowl populations of over 200,000. Through the Emiquon Partnership, the Conservancy works with federal and state partners, including Dickson Mounds Museum, and local communities to provide opportunities for wildlife viewing, boating, fishing, hunting, education, and volunteerism that draw tens of thousands to the site annually. Additionally, this science-based, landscape-scale restoration is being used by researchers from a dozen institutions to better understand the restoration and management of more naturally functioning floodplains and the many benefits they provide for nature and people.