Sunday, May 20, 2007

A Visit to a Saline Wetland

Today I took a trip to a saline wetland. Saline wetlands are not common. They are described as follows:

Once estimated to be in excess of 20,000 acres, less than 4,000 acres remain and many of these are degraded. These wetlands form a regionally unique wetlands complex located in floodplain swales and depressions within the Salt Creek, Little Salt Creek, and Rock Creek drainages in Lancaster and southern Saunders counties, Nebraska.

The source of salinity for these wetlands is not fully understood, but it’s postulated it is from groundwater inflow that passes through a rock formation containing salts deposited by an ancient sea that once covered Nebraska (USDA 1996). The seepage of groundwater over thousands of years from deeply buried saline aquifers has accumulated salts in the floodplain soils, allowing this unique wetland type to form.

The abundant mud flats of the saline wetlands are rich in invertebrate life and frequented by a variety of migratory shore birds, other bird species, and wildlife. Salt tolerant plants that are found nowhere else in Nebraska can be found here.

Nebraska’s most rare and most threatened natural community.

The still existing wetlands are slowly being restored.

The history(warning pdf) of the saline wetlands and their destruction is enough to make one weep.

There weren't a lot a birds around today, but there was a flock of about a dozen American Avocets. They were too far away for a photograph, but I took this one a couple of weeks ago.