By KEVIN DUFFY
Capital News Service
LANSING — Developers have buried more than 350 miles of streams in Michigan over the last century, creating large areas researchers call “urban stream deserts.”
These riverless areas favor concrete connections over urban parkways. They submerge surface streams, sometimes swallowing entire river systems.
“Urban rivers have value, and when cities start to systematically remove them, they remove viable ecosystem services, like flood control,” said Jacob Napieralski, an associate professor of geology at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Detroit has lost 86 percent of its surface streams since 1905, according to a study Napieralski recently submitted to the Journal of Maps. That’s roughly 180 miles of stream. Other Michigan cities, including Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids, have seen declines with up to 60 percent stream loss.