Nahma Research Natural Area

[photo:] Nahma RNA. USDA Forest Service photo.

Rapid River
This RNA contains a high-quality example of Great Lakes marsh and upland forest atop a wooded dune and swale complex. This unique ecosystem along the Great Lakes shoreline does not exist anywhere else in the world. Nahma RNA encompasses shoreline, a dune and swale complex, a large Great Lakes marsh, upland forests, and a northern white cedar (Thuja occidentalis) swamp. The Great Lakes marsh coversa significant portion of the RNA and provides essential food and habitat to migratory birds. Areas in the wetland may also offer important habitat for fur bearers such as bobcat (Lynx rufus) and black bear (Ursus americanus).

Ecological Information

Physical and Climatic Conditions

Nearest weather station, with distance and direction from RNA:
is Escanaba (station ID number: GHCND: USW00014824), Latitude: 45.7181° N Latitude, -87.0939° W Longitude). The station is about 10miles due northeast of the RNA.
Annual precipitation (type, seasonal distribution) :
Annual rainfall averages 28.7inches (728.2cm). Average seasonal snowfall is 49.5inches (1257.3cm).
Maximum and minimum temperatures:
Daily summertime temperatures average 51° F;average daily maximum temperatures average 52° F. Average temperature in the winter is 32° F; average daily minimum temperatures average 32° F.
Elevations range from 579 feet (176 meters) to 598 feet (182 meters) MSL.
Geology and Soils:
Bedrock of the area includes Queenstone Shale (70%) and Big Hill Dolomite (27%) with surficial Lacustrine sand and gravel, peat and muck.
The majority of soils falls within the Roscommon Series,whichconsist of poorly drained, nearly level soils on lake plains, outwash plains and till plains. Roscommon soils have low available water capacity and low natural fertility. Permeability is rapid, run off is very slow or ponded, and the water table is usually within 12 inches (30.5 cm) of the surface (NRCS 1994).
Aquatic Features:
Great Lakes Marsh provides habitat to many wildlife species, most notably migratory birds. Nahma is near the mouth of the Sturgeon River. Protecting this area ensures a quality water supply for many plant and animal species, as well as providing crucial habitat for riparian corridors.

Ecological Classification & Inventory

Laurentian Mixed Forest Province, 212REastern Upper Peninsula
212Rc Escanaba Lake Plain and Thin Till
Landtype Association
212Rc17, Nahma Lowlands
Plant Communities:
Class Forest and Woodland
Subclass Temperate Forest
Formation Cool Temperate Forest
Division Eastern North American Cool Temperate Forest
Macrogroup Northern Mesic Hardwood and Conifer Forest
Group Northern Hardwood-Eastern hemlock-Eastern white pine Forest
Association *Thuja occidentalis-Betula alleghaniensis (CEGL002450)

View or download Complete Plant List (pdf)

MI Natural Community Types:
Based on the Michigan Natural Features Inventory natural community types, Nahma RNA is composed primarily of Northern white-cedar (262.1ac. [106.1ha]).
Common Flora:
Blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) and Canadian bunchberry (Cornus canadensis) are the dominant ground species within upland forests on dunes. The Great Lakes marsh, dominated by tag alder (Alnus rugosa) and willow (Salix spp), spans the middle of the RNA and merges with a cedar swamp in the northern half of tract. Ground species within the cedar swamp include three leaf goldthread (Coptis trifolia), starflower (Trientalis borealis), wild sarsaparilla (Arailia nudicaulis) and Canadian Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis).
Common Fauna:
This habitat is suitable for large fur bearers such as black bear and lynx. Its wetlands and proximity to Lake Michigan make it an important resting and foraging habitat for migratory birds and neotropical songbirds.
Potential Research Topics:
Nahma provides opportunity to study northern white cedar swamps as well as conifer swamp succession. Research may also include the effects of water levels on ecosystem function and wildlife within the Great Lakes Marsh. In addition, the site lends itself to study of fire history –woody invasion, invasive species, climate change as it effects on northern wetlands, herpetological, ecological, or wildlife research.

Related Reports and Publications


Last Modified: August 19, 2021