, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 490–504

Characterization of wetland hydrology using hydrogeomorphic classification


    • Dynamac Corporation Environmental Services
  • Mary E. Kentula
    • U.S. Environmental Protection AgencyNHEERL-WED
  • Stephanie E. Gwin
    • Dynamac Corporation Environmental Services
Special Section on Wetlands in an Urbanizing Landscape

DOI: 10.1007/BF03161688

Cite this article as:
Shaffer, P.W., Kentula, M.E. & Gwin, S.E. Wetlands (1999) 19: 490. doi:10.1007/BF03161688


Hydrologic data are essential for understanding relationships between wetland morphology and function and for characterizing landscape-scale patterns of wetland occurrence. We monitored water levels in 45 wetlands for three years to characterize the hydrology of wetlands in the vicinity of Portland, Oregon, USA and classified wetlands by hydrogeomorphic (HGM) class to determine whether hydrologic regimes differed in wetlands in different HGM classes. We also compared hydrologic regimes in naturally occurring wetlands (NOWs) and mitigation wetlands (MWs) and in wetlands with/without a human-made water-retention structure to determine whether and how human modifications are changing the hydrology of wetlands. We found no relationship between hydrologic attributes and land use, soil association, or wetland area. We did find significant differences related to presence of a water-retention structure and to wetland type (NOW or MW). Water levels were higher and had less temporal variability and more extensive inundation (as % wetland area) in MWs and in wetlands modified to include a retention structure. HGM class was very effective for characterizing wetland hydrology, with significant differences among, HGM classes for water level and for extent and duration of inundation. For three regional classes, we found the lowest water levels and lowest extent/duration of inundation in slope wetlands, intermediate conditions in riverine wetlands, and the highest water levels and greatest extent and duration of inundation in depressions. In “atypical” classes (Gwin et al. 1999), average water level and extent of inundation were similar to conditions in depressions, but the within-site variability in water levels in depressions-in-slope-setting and in-stream-depressions was significantly smaller than in the regional classes (p ≤ 0.001). Results highlight the importance of both geomorphic setting and wetland structure in defining wetland hydrology and support the use of HGM for wetland classification. Because hydrology is an important determinant of many wetland functions, resource managers using restoration and mitigation to offset wetland losses should strive for project design and siting that re-establish the hydrogeomorphology of natural wetlands to improve the likelihood of replacing wetland functions.

Key Words

hydrogeomorphic settingwater retentionwetland hydrologywetland mitigationwetland morphologywetland restorationPortlandOregon, USA

Copyright information

© Society of Wetland Scientists 1999