Coastal wetlands of Lake Erie fall into three categories, depending on the type of protection available to the wetland vegetation: (1) coastal lagoons behind barrier beaches, (2) managed marshes protected by earthern and rip-rap dikes, and (3) estuarine tributary mouths. At one time the most important protection was that afforded by barrier bars or other natural shoreline features which formed quiet lagoons and embayments. Very few natural wetlands of this type still exist in Lake Erie. Most of the lagoon-type coastal marshes, if they have not been drained or filled or engulfed by the lake, have been replaced by the second type: managed-waterfowl marshes which are now protected by earthen rip-rap dikes. The third type of protection is the natural isolation from lake storms provided by the estuaries of virtually all of the tributaries entering Lake Erie, particularly at the western end. Large wetlands have developed along most of the estuaries where disturbance has been minimal. Estuarine coastal marshes currently form the majority of the naturally protected wetlands bordering western Lake Erie. © 1992, International Association for Great Lakes Research. All rights reserved.
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