Why do we assess and monitor the health of our wetlands?
|Examining non-tidal wetland soils |
By understanding the health of our wetlands, we also can better understand how to restore them and protect them from actions that cause damage. Wetlands provide many important services to humans and the environment, including: improving water quality, providing habitat for fish, wildlife and rare plants, protecting us from flooding and storm damage, and providing open space on the landscape. The less healthy a wetland is, the less likely it is that it can provide these services to its fullest capabilities. The data obtained by DNREC from assessing wetlands is being used to design wetland restoration plans for watersheds and to better understand how certain land use decisions affect the health of our wetlands.
The goal of DNREC's Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Program (WMAP) is to assess the condition, or health, of wetlands and the functions and ecosystem services that wetlands provide. This information will then be used to inform the citizens of Delaware and to improve existing education, restoration, protection, and land use planning efforts. The Delaware Wetland Monitoring Strategy will guide future efforts of the WMAP in the areas of protocol development, wetland monitoring and assessment activities, research, and application of information.
We work closely with other states through the Environmental Protection Agency's Mid-Atlantic Wetlands Program to establish and conduct research methods and share information.
▪ Develop scientifically valid wetland assessment methods.
▪ Assess the current condition of wetlands by watershed and identify major stressors that are impacting wetlands.
▪ Perform research to improve our understanding of wetland functions, the impact of stressors, and the ecosystem services provided by wetlands to humans and the environment.
▪ Evaluate the performance of wetland restoration and other compensatory wetland mitigation in replacing wetland acreage and function.
▪ Educate other state agencies, conservation partners, and the general public to improve efforts to protect and restore wetlands.
▪ Integrate monitoring and assessment data into watershed restoration plans and other conservation strategies.
▪ Meet requirements of the Clean Water Act.
See a schedule of watershed assessments
▪ Development of Delaware’s nationally-recognized Monitoring and Assessment Protocols
▪ Developed Delaware Wetland Monitoring Strategy
▪ Developed a collaborative Wetland Conservation Strategy for Delaware
▪ Completed non-tidal wetland condition reports for the Nanticoke, Inland Bays, Murderkill, St. Jones, and Broadkill watersheds
▪ Completed tidal wetland condition reports for the Inland Bays, Murderkill, St. Jones, and Broadkill watersheds
▪ Collaborative development of a Restoration Plan for the Nanticoke Watershed
Monitoring and Assessment Protocols
The procedures below are the tools we use to assess the health of our wetlands. The data is collected in the field and then analyzed back at the office to assign scores or rankings that indicate the health of the wetland. Different procedures are used for different wetland habitats and to obtain varying levels of data. Comprehensive assessments are used to extensively document the health of a wetland along with the stressors that might be impacting it. The comprehensives assessments require more time and staff than the rapid assessments to conduct in the field. The detailed data from the comprehensive assessments help to ensure that our less extensive rapid assessments are collecting valid data that is comparable to the more detailed comprehensive surveys. The comprehensive procedure can produce scores for certain wetland functions (services) including habitat, plants, hydrology, buffers, and soil cycling.
DECAP - The Delaware Comprehensive Assessment Procedure - is a comprehensive assessment method for collecting data that can be used to determine the condition of a wetland site relative to reference condition (closest to natural and undisturbed). Detailed field data are collected on the vegetation, hydrology, topography, and buffer; typically taking a field crew of four people 3-4 hours to complete. Hydrogeomorphic (HGM) based protocols are then used to score variables based on the type of wetland. These variables were developed with expert teams of scientists based on reference wetland data. Variables that were responsive to disturbance were scaled from least disturbed (1.0) to most disturbed (0). Variables are then combined into functions (Buffer Integrity, Wildlife Habitat Integrity, Plant Community Integrity, Maintenance of Characteristic Hydrologic Regime, and Biogeochemical Cycling and Storage) and an Index of Wetland Condition (IWC) that provides an overall assessment of the ecological integrity of the site. DECAP also provides information on actions needed to restore the sites based on the stressors that are present. The DECAP can be used to assess flat, riverine and depressional nontidal wetland subclasses in the Coastal Plain of Delaware and Maryland. Please contact the DNREC/ Watershed Assessment Section for the most recent versions of the scoring protocols.
Studying the impact of ditching
Checking off stressors
DERAP - The Delaware Rapid Assessment Procedure is a rapid field method for determining the general condition of a wetland site. One person can typically complete the assessment in less than 2 hours once on site. DERAP is a stressor checklist used to collect data on the presence or absence of specific wetland stressors related to wetland hydrology, habitat qualities, and buffer characteristics. An overall score of condition (Index of Wetland Condition) and the corresponding condition category (minimally or not stressed, moderately stressed, or severely stressed) is calculated by applying weights to each stressor based on the type of wetland being evaluated and summing the final score. This method is calibrated with the DECAP IWC and produces a similar score of condition (DERAP IWC). DERAP does not provide the detail of information as the DECAP and does not provide the information needed to score functions. The DERAP can be used in flat, riverine, and depressional wetlands in Delaware and Maryland.
Testing marsh stability
MidTRAM - The MidAtlantic Tidal Rapid Assessment Method is a rapid protocol for assessing the condition of estuarine emergent tidal wetlands in Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. Two people can typically complete the assessment in less than 2 hours once on site. A combination of qualitative and quantitative data are collected and used to score 20 metrics related to tidal wetland hydrology, habitat components, and buffer quality. The MidTRAM provides an overall score of condition compared to reference sites in the region. The MidTRAM is validated with intensive biological data based on the bird community and biomass levels. MidTRAM Data Sheets
Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Program Contact:
Alison Rogerson (302)739-9939 or by email: