4.8 Ecological Integrity Issues
Impact of Future Development
Sensitive resources in the watershed, including high-quality wetlands and uplands, natural communities, and rare species habitat face varying threats from degradation as a result of development pressure, rapid urbanization, and subsequent channelization of stream conveyances that go beyond impacts to water quality and hydrology. Development can directly or indirectly degrade and fragment habitat, and reduce or eliminate the opportunities for natural stormwater management provided by minimally disturbed grasslands, forests, woodlands, and wetlands.
Maintaining the connectivity between ecosystems is becoming increasingly difficult as development increases in the upper watershed. Conversions of open areas to large-lot development will likely create a patchwork of remnant woodland, grassland, and wetland. Many species require significant contiguous areas of habitat in which to hunt or brood. The fragmentation that would result from development will limit the ecological integrity of the entire area.
Lower Watershed Issues
The lower watershed is almost entirely developed, and urbanization has eliminated, fragmented, and degraded the ecological integrity of its natural resources. Nonetheless, some resources remain in moderate condition, and the Minnehaha Creek corridor has the potential to be a primary wildlife corridor for the area.
Upper Watershed Issues
While the area immediately surrounding Lake Minnetonka is developed at typical urban and suburban intensities, many parts of the upper watershed are characterized by large open areas of forest, grasslands, and wetlands punctuated by low density development. Several regional park reserves are present, including Carver Park Reserve and Baker Park reserve, two of the largest open spaces in the Three Rivers Park system. Two Scientific and Natural Areas preserving Big Woods remnants are present in the watershed, as are large areas designated as Regionally Significant Ecological Areas.
Invasive and Exotic Species
Invasive and exotic species are present in the watershed, including Eurasian water milfoil and curlyleaf pondweed in many lakes. Many of the wetlands in the watershed exhibit low vegetative diversity, including cattail and reed canary grass monocultures and invasive exotic species.