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Mid-Atlantic Wetland Monitoring & Assessment

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Wetland Science Team

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Background

Consistent, thorough, and timely wetland monitoring and assessment programs are a critical tool for states and tribes to better manage and protect their wetland resources. These programs allow states and tribes to:

Wetlands monitoring and assessment data can be used to help make decisions in:

The mid-Atlantic region's wetland program has been helping states develop wetland monitoring programs and providing technical and financial assistance for development of wetland assessment methodologies for over 10 years. Financial assistance is primarily through EPA's wetland program development grants and other research funding opportunities.

Under the Clean Water Act states are required to monitor and report on the quality of waters within their states, including wetlands. Current EPA guidance indicates that wetlands should be included in water quality monitoring programs. The guidance states that all states must develop a written monitoring program strategy that clearly outlines how the state will achieve, within the next 10 years, comprehensive assessment of all waterbody types (including wetlands) for all designated uses.

Assessment Methods and Tools

EPA´s National Wetlands Monitoring Workgroup has endorsed the concept of a Level 1, 2, 3 approach to wetland monitoring.

Level 1, "landscape assessment" (like the National Wetlands Inventory) relies on coarse, landscape scale inventory information, typically gathered through remote sensing and preferably stored in, or convertible to, a geographic information system (GIS) format.

Level 2 is "rapid assessment" at the specific wetland site scale, using relatively simple, rapid protocols. Level 2 assessment protocols are to be validated by and calibrated to Level 3 assessments.

Level 3 is "intensive site assessment" and uses intensive research-derived, multi-metric indices such as the Hydrogeomorphic Approach (PDF) (14pp, 218K) or Indices of Biologic Integrity.

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Mid-Atlantic Wetland Monitoring Work Group

EPA's mid-Atlantic office developed and helps facilitate the Mid-Atlantic Wetland Workgoup (MAWWG) Exit EPA Click for Disclaimer, a nationally recognized regional wetland monitoring workgroup that assists states in building their capacity to implement and sustain wetland assessment and monitoring programs. 

MAWWG is funded through a wetland program development grant to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. The workgroup is administered by staff from the Pennsylvania State University Riparia.

Building the capacity of states to assess the biological, chemical and physical integrity of wetlands is an EPA National Wetlands Program priority. A National Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Work Group was established in 1999. The Mid-Atlantic Wetland Monitoring Work Group (MAWWG) is a subgroup of this organization and consists of members from the following states:

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Highlights of Our Work

Regional Wetland Assessment

The regional Wetland Science Team is coordinating a study through EPA's Office of Research and Development to assess the ecological condition of non-tidal wetlands in the mid-Atlantic region. The project is a collaboration between EPA's Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program (EMAP) and the states through the Mid-Atlantic Wetlands Working Group (MAWWG) Exit EPA Disclaimer. The principle investigators, Pennsylvania State University's Cooperative Wetlands Center Exit EPA Disclaimer and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science Center for Coastal Resources Management Exit EPA Disclaimer, will collaborate to develop and implement a wetland assessment protocol for the mid-Atlantic region. The protocol will synthesize methods currently developed for Pennsylvania, Virginia, Ohio, and Delaware to generate a protocol that can be used for probabilistic sampling and characterization of wetlands in each of the major eco-regions of the mid-Atlantic (PDF) (1 pg, 720K, About PDF). This project constitutes the first steps in an effort to establish a continuing monitoring and assessment program for wetland conditions throughout the region.

Tidal Wetland Assessment

The Virginia Institute for Marine Science, Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and Maryland Department of Natural Resources worked together on development of a multi-level (Level I, Level II and Level III) tidal wetland inventory and assessment methodology for the Delmarva peninsula (Delaware, Maryland and Virginia). This project, funded by an EPA wetland program development grant, represents a remarkable collaborative effort among states to develop a consistent characterization of natural resources with measurement methods and statistical designs that are consistent across the entire region. More Exit EPA Disclaimer

Mid-Atlantic Tidal Wetland Rapid Assessment Method (PDF) (45 pp, 1.8M, About PDF)

National Wetland Assessment

EPA and its partners are beginning work on the first-ever national survey on the condition of the Nation's wetlands. The survey will provide regional and national estimates of the ecological integrity and biological condition of wetlands.

Virginia's Landscape Level Assessment of all Mapped Wetlands

Using Geographic Information System (GIS) methodologies, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science Exit EPA Disclaimer, in collaboration with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality Exit EPA Disclaimer has characterized the capacity of every mapped wetland in Virginia to provide water quality and habitat services using remotely sensed data. See the National Wetland Inventory Data Viewer for Virginia Exit EPA Disclaimer. This ground-breaking work was funded through the mid-Atlantic Wetland Program Development Grants.

Nanticoke & Juniata Rivers Watershed Wetland Studies

These pilot projects in the Chesapeake Bay watershed were funded through EPA’s Office of Research and Development to develop probabilistic wetland protocols on a watershed basis.  The Wetland Science Team provided technical support in their development.  Both projects provided the framework for the methods developed in the Region and support state wetland monitoring program development.

The Nanticoke Project was a research project between the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center Exit EPA Disclaimerand the Nature Conservancy Exit EPA Disclaimer to determine the ecological health and function of freshwater non-tidal wetlands in the Nanticoke River watershed in Maryland and Delaware. More Exit EPA Disclaimer

The Juniata study assessed the ecological condition of wetlands in the Juniata River watershed of central Pennsylvania. More Exit EPA Disclaimer

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