By: Patrick Carlson
Summary. Since the 1880's Sugar island has been a must visit attraction for locals from Canada and Michigan. The sweet maple trees on the island gave it the name "Sugar Island". It became such a tourist spot that pavilions, docks, and even a small amusement park were put on the island. As Great Lakes Now describes, "Grosse Ile residents often refer to the years that followed as the golden era of Sugar Island". Unfortunately the following decades the island was practically abandoned due to failed residential attempts until 2011 when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service purchased it to be part of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge. Sugar island marks an important spot for bird migrations and a huge spawning/nursery for many fish species. In the 1980's Sugar Island was designated as an area of concern regarding the high pollution rates of the Detroit river. Since the 1930's the island has shrunk by about 20% due to rising water levels, and frequencies of storms. The solution took many years but finally came to fruition in 2018. A series of small islands were to be put around the island to create a barrier for fish nurseries and to prevent large waves to erode the island as drastically as before. It also includes adding a rocky reef farther offshore to attract native fish. This project adds about 20 acres of wetlands and natural habitats for native species of fish, birds, reptiles, and amphibians while also reducing the damage done by climate change.
Why we should care? Sugar Island is a prime example of an ecosystem that can be restored through the effort of many. It acts as a natural home for both common and endangered species, a purifier of nearby water, and a barrier against incoming floods/storm surges that erode our shores.
The News Herald explained a very interesting piece of data that was honestly quite shocking. In the last 200 years, since European settlers had arrived, almost 97% of the Detroit rivers coastal wetlands have been destroyed. Because a change this drastic occurred, both the United States and Canada were forced to create an international agreement in which areas around the Great Lakes were designated as areas of very high concern. This cooperation will allow multiple organizations and agencies to work towards a common goal of delisting some of the very important coastal areas and island; sugar Island being one of the most notable.
Science in Action.
Dr. Rani-Henrik Andersson is a Senior University Lecturer in North American Studies at the University of Helsinki.
Rani-Henrik Andersson is one of the most interesting researchers on the Sugar Island topic in recent years. His research is focused more on the development of Sugar Island since its inhabitance by Finnish immigrants in the early 1900's. Knowing what the land's uses for development can help us understand the composition of the soils, types of flora and fauna introduced by the cultivation of the land. By knowing more about the history of the Island, it may aid in future restoration and protection of an extremely important ecological ecosystem directly involved with the entire great lakes system as a whole.