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Our Projects

A Living Laboratory

The Des Plaines River Wetlands Demonstration Project was a living laboratory designed to provide scientists the research opportunities necessary to evaluate and quantify how riverine wetlands enhance water quality, mitigate flooding, and provide wildlife habitat.

On a 500-acre site in northeastern Illinois, hydrauli­cally-controlled experimental wetlands were con­structed where abandoned farm fields and gravel pits once stood. In 1958, the research site was characterized by declin­ing agricultural usage, ex­panding gravel extraction, and a dying oak grove. Except for a small area, the site is within the 100-year floodplain.


Four experimental wetlands serve as labora­tories for research into the physical, chemical, and biological processes of wetlands. In 1985, immediately following the completion of the construction portion of the project, a team of over 20 scientists and engineers began to collect data that would serve as a Baseline Survey. This survey would cover the following topics: topog­raphy, hydrology, water quality, geology, soils, vegeta­tion (both wetland and upland), microorganisms, aquatic macroinvertebrates, terrestrial insects, amphibians, rep­tiles, fish, birds, mammals, prehistoric uses, historic uses, and public uses. To date, research work is conducted by staff and students of several universities, personnel from state agen­cies and private consulting organizations, and individual scientists and engineers.


The restored wetland and upland landscapes at the site have provided additional opportunities for research. In turn, these research findings have furthered the development of design and management procedures, enabling scientists and engineers to rebuild and maintain multi-functional wetlands along the nation's rivers.

Several published works have come out of this project. Click on the button below to review and download some of these publications.

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