Why are marshes important?


Marshes, also known as wetlands, are frequently inundated (flooded) with water.  Plants found in marshes such as the common cattail, lily pads, and duckweed are adapted to the saturated soil conditions. Animals commonly seen in a marsh are otters and muskrats. There are many different types of marshes including coastal, inland, fresh water, salt water, riparian, and more. Marshes get their water from surface water (rain/runoff) and ground water. Now that we have covered the basics of marshes, why are they important? Marshes act like filtration systems because the vegetation in a marsh uses up excess nutrients for growth that could otherwise pollute the water such as phosphorus and nitrogen. Marshes also help to reduce damage caused by a flood by storing and slowing the water. This is especially important when marshes are in a watershed (an area where surface water—such as rain or snow converges to a single point). Fresh water marshes tend to have a neutral pH as well which leads to an abundance of life—far more than what is expected to grow due to the sometimes minimal sizes of marshes.

Non-tidal marshes are most commonly distributed through North America. Most of these are freshwater marshes which have highly organic soil underlying the floor of the marsh. Here in La Crosse we have a marsh that separates north and south La Crosse. It is known as a riparian marsh because it occurs alongside a river (Mississippi River). It is called the La Crosse River Marsh and it is about 1,077 acres in size. It is home to many animals and plants species. Unfortunately, like many marshes today, our marsh is in risk of disappearing. Today many marshes are degraded by excessive deposits of nutrients fromspe farming and construction. They are also degraded by over flooding. There are ways to preserve marshes. This could involve the city purchasing the marsh and declaring it as land that cannot be built on, or there could be plans that prevent houses or other structures from being built near a marsh. If you live near a marsh, do your part, and protect a piece of wetland that is beneficial to so many plants and animals.

Learn more from a leader in environmental stewardship by visiting www.gundersenenvision.org.


The importance of bird houses



The photos above are of a bird house located in the grasslands near the Gundersen Onalaska campus. Why is it important to have bird houses? Bird houses are also known as nest boxes because they provide a safe place for birds to build their nest and raise their young. In the winter, birds will also huddle together for warmth within a bird house. More than 50 different species of birds nest in bird houses. In suburban areas where there is less vegetation or natural environments, bird houses are essential in providing the birds with a safe place to raise their young. When birds migrate, bird houses also provide them with a place to rest. It is important in general to help preserve the bird population because birds eat seeds and spread the seeds different areas, which in turn promotes plant growth. Birds also partake in eating pesky insects. 

Are you considering building a bird house at your house or on your organizations land? First consider the type of species you are building it for, how big you want it to be, and where you plan on putting it. The material it is made out of is also important—wood prevents the house from becoming too hot when the sun hits it. Simply searching for bird houses online will provide you with the resources you need to start building your bird house. Take action today, and help support the native bird population by building or purchasing a bird house.

Green cleaning


Looking for ways to “go green”? If you haven’t already, consider changing out your cleaning products to safe and easy alternatives that are not harmful to the environment. Listed below are “do it yourself” (DIY) mixtures that you can make with products in your own home.

  • Cleaning countertops: Cut a lemon in half, dip in baking soda and use on countertop. Wipe with a wet sponge. Do not use on stainless steel or marble surfaces.
  • For dirt or rust: Combine salt and lemon juice together. Apply to area.
  • Clogs: Pour ½ cup of baking soda down clogged drain followed by ½ cup white vinegar. After about 15 minutes, flush with four cups of boiling water. For plastic pipes, use hot tap water.
  • Windows or glass surfaces: Combine ¼ cup white vinegar, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, and 2 cups of warm water in a spray bottle. Shake well and spray.
  • Water stains: Combine baking soda and water to make a paste. Use a toothbrush to scrub the paste into the water stain. For tough stains, pour vinegar on stained area and then continue scrubbing.
  • Freshening garbage disposals: Cut a lemon into slices and run through the disposal.
  • Soap scum: Heat 1 cup of white vinegar in a microwave and combine in a spray bottle with 1 cup of dish detergent. Spray on soap scum and wait a minute before wiping off.
  • Grease stains: Sprinkle cornstarch on problem spots. Let stand 20-30 minutes before vacuuming. 

These are only a few easy to create and safe to use mixtures. If you are interested in learning about more mixtures, check out this link: http://www.fcs.uga.edu/ext/pubs/hace/HACE-E-73-1.pdf 

Happy cleaning!


Everyday tips for going green


Are you interested in going green, but do not want to make huge changes in your life? Here are a few simple everyday tips to help you reduce your carbon footprint and support a healthier environment.

  • Go vegetarian once a week. Producing meat requires a lot of resources, including water and fuel, so eating one less meat- based meal a week can help reduce the meat industry’s carbon footprint and your own.
  • Use one less paper napkin. Most people have the tendency to grab several paper napkins from the dispenser, however the more napkins pulled, the more that go into the landfill and the more trees wasted.
  • Recycle your newspaper or read newspaper articles online. You will be saving trees and preventing more waste from going into the landfill.
  • Brush your teeth without letting the water run. You might be surprised how much water you will save.
  • Take a shorter shower. The longer the shower, the more water wasted. Or consider changing your shower head to a low flow shower head to save water.
  • Plant a tree. Trees benefit the environment because they filter water and recycle oxygen into the air. So help out the environment and plant a tree.
  • Stop paper bank statements. Request to receive your bank statements online and save paper.
  • Hesitate before throwing something away—could it be reused, given as a gift, recycled? Just because you throw something away doesn’t mean it disappears forever. Limit the amount that you send to the landfill.
  • Choose matches over lighters. Lighters are made of plastic and filled with butane fuel which when thrown away are harmful to the environment. Choose cardboard matches which are usually made of recycled paper instead of wooden matches made from trees.
  • Turn off the lights when you leave a room. It is easy to forget to turn off a light at night or when you leave for work in the morning so leave reminders around the house to keep you from forgetting.

These are just a few ways to decrease your carbon footprint and go green. There is so much more that any individual can do, so do your own research or just take a look around you and discover where most of your waste comes from. Any change in action makes a difference, so start your change today! Interested in learning about more green tips? Check out our website at http://www.gundersenenvision.org/.