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About Us:  Wildlife

Picture of bowfin fish

CERCLA activities have a large and lasting impact on plants and animals that inhabit Crab Orchard NWR. As with people, plants and animals can pick up environmental contaminants through dermal contact and ingestion. As part of the CERCLA process, the FWS conducts Ecological Risk Assessments (ERAs) to assess the potential hazards of contaminants to wildlife. ERAs take into account the amount of contaminant present, the pathway of a contaminant through the environment, the susceptibility of the organisms to the contaminant, and amount of exposure an organism may receive to the contaminant. For example, a Pileated woodpecker will not be exposed to a high level of metal contaminants in shallow sediment, whereas a great egret will probably be exposed by feeding on fish and/or frogs that ingest these sediments. A tiger salamander will likely have high exposure due to direct daily contact and ingestion of this sediment. Wildlife is often more sensitive to contaminants than humans using the same area, and Ecological Risk Assessments are therefore often more conservative with contaminant cleanup levels than Human Health Risk Assessments. See EPA's Superfund Risk Assessment web site for more information and guidances.

Cleared area
Turkeys in MISCA OU Site 36 after remediation.

Contaminant cleanup at CERCLA sites such as Crab Orchard NWR is often very invasive, and is sometimes detrimental to wildlife habitat before it can help make it better. Many cleanup projects involve the removal and treatment of large amounts of soil and/or water, along with any plants growing there. Entire groves of trees must sometimes be removed in order to excavate the soils beneath. These areas are either replanted with native vegetation to fit management goals or left to naturally revegetate.

Certain contaminants can remain in the food chain for several years after cleanup. Wildlife using the refuge is therefore monitored long after cleanup is complete. Invertebrate, avian, mammalian, amphibian, and reptilian communities are sampled to ascertain whether wildlife communities have returned to a healthy state.
Biologists collect tissue and blood samples from indicator species such as upper trophic level predators to ensure that remediation has removed contaminants from the ecosystem to levels protective of wildlife. Breeding surveys are also conducted to make sure that wildlife populations in remediated contamination areas are reproducing at rates similar to those in natural areas. Biological monitoring is the final important step in ensuring that contaminants have been removed from the system, and that these areas have been returned to safe wildlife environments.


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2007 Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge.

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Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge

8588 Rt. 148
Marion, IL 62959

Phone:  (618) 997-5491  

Email:  CrabOrchardCleanup@fws.gov


Last Updated:  August 6, 2007