Root River Habitat
ENJOY- The Root River serves as a wildlife corridor between the county farmland and the shores of Lake Michigan. Throughout the City of Racine, this habitat spans varied topography from cliffs to floodplain, and includes wetlands, riparian areas, woodlands (deciduous and conifer) and prairie. This variety of flaura and habitat provide food and shelter for a suprising array of wildlife. Many exploring the Root River and associated parklands are delighted to see foxes, coyotes, deer, groundhogs, raccoons, skunks, blue herons, night herons, canadian geese, mallard and woodland ducks, beavers, hawks, falcons, kingfishers... and the list goes on. Check out activities on the Root River HERE.
RESTORE- Several large-scale community volunteer organizations work to preserve and restore the native habitat. As with other urban river basins, the Root River struggles with invasive exotic plants (more info below). Help restore the Root River habitat by joining up with local conservation groups.
WeedOut! Racine is an all-volunteer organization working to remove these invasives and install native plants better suited to support local wildlife. Come out for a good time with good people doing good things!
The Root River Council also works closely with other agencies on habitat restoration, flood-mitigation, and stream-bank stabilization, including Root-Pike WIN, Wild Ones!, WeedOut! Racine, UW-Parkside, the Racine Forestry Dept., Southeastern WI Regional Planning Committee, and various members of the Root River Watershed Restoration Planning Group.
What are Invasive Species? Why does it matter?
Invasive species are defined as terrestrial or aquatic plant and animal species that have 'invasive' tendencies. The National Invasive Species Council defines invasive species as species that are non-native (or alien) to the ecosystem under consideration and whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm, or harm to human health. Invasive species can be plants, animals, or pathogens.
PLANTS: The Root River acts as a kind of 'throughway' for plants and animals, providing valuable habitat for native and exotic species alike. Seeds, spores, stolon, rhizomes, or bulbs from plants are carried by recreational users, run-off, birds and other wildlife from gardens, streets, and flood plains to be deposited downstream. The rich, moist riparian soils provide a bed within which plants thrive: native and exotic. The thick, river-bank foliage that provides the seclusion urbanites seek when paddling parklands also provides cover for urban wildlife. Invasive plant-species add to this thick foliage but do not provide the shelter, food, and habitat needed by the native animals accustomed to this particular ecosystem. The situation is often aggravated as new animal species adapted to these plants create additional competition for food and shelter.
Invasive plant-species along the river bank affect the water quality of the Root River by creating a dense canopy that blocks crucial sunlight needed by understory plants. This leaves the soil below barren of plants. When run-off or flooding occurs, the bare soil is prone to erosion. In the River it creates high turbidity (suspension of solids) which limits sunlight to sub-merged aquatic plants, raises water temperatures, and decreases dissolved oxygen. Submerged plants die, creating additional soil instability which further contributes to the suspended particulates in the Root River. Barren soil also fails to filter out any suspended petroleum distillates, metals, litter, eroding soil, or fertilizers from storm-water run-off heading to the Root River.
Suspended particulates such as fertilizers, plant material and soil are loaded with nutrients. These nutrients over-feed naturally occuring algea to create 'algae blooms'. Algae blooms are comprised of many types of algae, some of which are Hepatotoxins and can cause damage to internal organs and death to humans. As the algea dies, bacteria that consumes the algea thrives. This bacteria uses up any remaining dissolved oxygen. Any fish or aquatic animals in this oxygen defficient zone (hypoxy zone) die creating a 'fish kill'. These zones can be as large as an entire ocean coast (red tide) or be limited to a small section of a river.
ANIMALS: Invasive animal species have an equally detrimental effect on the Root River. Carp and other bottom feeding fish eat phyto-nutrients (small plant cells) by fanning the sediment at the bottom of the river with their fins. This fanning creates high turbidity and robs young native fish and amphibians of critical food. An especially grave threat to our rivers and lakes is the ASIAN CARP. These veracious eaters were introduced in fish farms which flooded over and entered the Mississippi River. They have since moved north and are knocking at Lake Michigan's front door. Check here for more information or contact the WI DNR.
Get Involved Today!!