Riparian zones along with their associated water bodies, including wetlands, are managed as one unit within a watershed. Riparian zones are complicated because they encompass many habitats: wetlands, shrublands and forests creating a fragile ecosystem with microclimates. Wetlands associated with the refuge’s riparian ecosystems include open water, beaver ponds, marsh, shrub swamps, wet meadows, and bottomland hardwood swamps.
The Sugar Lake Division has 16 freshwater impoundments that range in size from 1 to 175 acres. Impoundments were created as moist soil units to benefit wetland dependent species, by mimicking a natural wetland cycle. Active management includes manipulation of the water levels in the impoundments through drawdowns in the late-spring to early-summer (promoting the growth of vegetation used for food and shelter) and flooding in the fall or spring.
Shrublands can be found in wet or dry areas of the refuge.
These are important habitats for American Woodcock and Blue-winged warbler. Left alone, shrublands will eventually become forests. To keep habitat as shrublands they need to be disturbed through activities such as mowing, selective cutting of trees, and the application of herbicides.
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Northern riffleshell and clubshell mussels are two critically imperiled species, having lost more than 95 percent of their historic range. However, the surviving northern riffleshell in Pennsylvania are some of the best remaining in the world. French Creek is home to these and 26 other mussel species.