Northwest Indiana and the greater Chicago Region is a uniquely relevant place for people interested in ecological restoration. It contains some of the country's most botanically diverse ecosystems (such as the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, which is home to over 1400 plant species), yet is in close proximity to heavy industry and major population centers. This has led to many cases of habitat destruction/degradation, but has likewise inspired generations of activists to protect and restore a large number of areas. The Restoration Revolution in Northwest Indiana has documented and compiled a map of over 160 current restoration sites in the area.

NIRMI currently monitors 40 sites in Lake, Porter, LaPorte, and Newton counties in Indiana, and Cook County, Illinois. The region's biodiversity is due in part to the fact that the south shore of Lake Michigan is a meeting point for several North American ecosystem types. Here many species are near the edge of their distribution ranges.

The geological history of this area also allows a great variety of habitat types to exist in a relatively small area. These plant and fungal communities range from active sand dunes, dune-swale, savanna, mature oak woodland, wet prairie, and several types of wetlands. The dune region holds a special place in the history of American ecology since it was here that Henry Chandler Cowles studied the vegetation changes in habitats across time and pioneered the theory of ecological succession.

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