A Not So Common Tern of Events

A Tern for the Better: The Detroit River Comeback

I found this great article on an environmental restoration project going on in the Detroit River area. Because of the intense rehabilitation efforts, researchers had the pleasure of finding two common tern chicks last summer. Common terns are considered “threatened” in Michigan and haven’t been seen in the area for 50 years. Although this is exciting news, the area is not completely rehabilitated. Scientists will be able to use the terns to identify concentrations of contaminants in the water supply: “The longer common terns are in the Detroit River, in a particular breeding season, the more contaminants they put into their bodies.” It seems like a horrible situation to me – people being able to restore enough habitat to bring the birds back, only to see they are being poisoned- but it’s still a good first step. The restoration is an effort to reverse the impact of industrialization, which eliminated 90% of the wetlands and many of its animals. The success of this restoration project is largely credited to the fact that it is run by the only international environmental collaboration in North America and many partners, both corporate and non-profit. The partners have been piecing together a “patchwork” of properties with the hopes of forming 3,000 quality acres. Much of the restoration is focused on transforming the concrete, “hard” shoreline habitats to more wildlife friendly “soft” ones.

Restoring this habitat is critical for migrating animals. I think many times people think of migration as point A and point B and that those two areas are what need to be maintained. This is true, but the places in between A and B are just as important for successful migrations. The same is true for fish and the wetlands. Although the majority of a fish’s time may be spent in deeper water, the fish requires the shallower water to spawn. I think these “just passing through” habitats can easily get overlooked even though they play a pivotal role in an animal’s life cycle. The other breakthrough coming from this project is how the scientists will try to intertwine “the urban environment with the natural world.” With urban expansion and the growing population of the world, understanding how to combine the two in effective ways will be vital for the future of conservation. Overall, my favorite part was still the collaboration effort. Maybe many people or organizations think they can’t do very much to help because of a lack of funding, but if there is a network of “patch partners,” I think you could make a pretty great environmental quilt!

Common Tern with fish. Wiki Commons: Badjoby

Common Tern with fish. Wiki Commons: Badjoby

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