Wetlands Ecology and Management

, Volume 25, Issue 5, pp 517–532 | Cite as

Field-based assessment of wetland condition, wetland extent, and the National Wetlands Inventory in Kentucky, USA

  • Michelle Guidugli-Cook
  • Stephen C. Richter
  • Barbara J. Scott
  • David R. Brown
Original Paper


The economic and ecological importance of wetlands is well documented, but there are few studies that have assessed wetland condition and extent for the United States. Many states, including Kentucky, have had no statewide field evaluation of wetlands of any kind. The National Wetland Inventory (NWI) is the largest database for mapped wetlands in the United States and the most comprehensive source of wetland information for Kentucky, but its value for determining wetland condition is limited. Therefore, our objectives were to document wetland extent and condition and assess the agreement between the NWI and field-based wetland characteristics in Kentucky. We conducted field and remote-sensing based assessments of 352 wetlands across the state. NWI-mapped and field-assessed wetlands had similar large-scale patterns; however, for individual wetlands, classification often disagreed. Based on our wetland assessment method, wetlands appear to be of moderate condition, although we found differences among basins, dominant vegetation types, and landscape positions and much variation as many sites scored very low and high. Our findings support previous work showing that rapid assessments are valuable for determining wetland condition for ambient monitoring and other applications. Also, our results provide the foundation for future status and trends studies and suggest an urgent need to update the NWI in Kentucky and elsewhere. We suggest that the NWI could be improved by using newer technology that increases wetland mapping accuracy and including predictions of wetland condition using the enhanced NWI approach.


Kentucky Land cover National Wetlands Inventory NWIPlus Rapid assessment Wetland condition 



This research was supported by an Environmental Protection Agency Wetland Program Development Fund grant (CD-95449810-3 and CD-00D08913-1) awarded to the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet (Barbara Scott, Division of Water) and contractors (David Brown and Stephen Richter, Eastern Kentucky University). We are grateful for comments provided by two anonymous reviewers, which improved the clarity and quality of this paper. We are grateful for T. Olsen for support in site selection. Many field assistants helped collect this data, including J. Bicknell, C. Brantley, J. Brumley, C. Chan, S. Cohn, C. Czor, K. Dupler, E. Eisiminger, B. Garrison, J. Godbold, L. Hicks, A. Jackson, S. King, C. Kross, A. McTaggart, T. Morris, R. Payne, J. Polascik, N. Smith, T. Weinkam, and J. Yeiser. D. Mott and C. St. Andre provided assistance with GIS analysis.


The opinions expressed by authors contributing to this manuscript do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the institutions with which the authors are affiliated.


This study was funded by Environmental Protection Agency Wetland Program Development Grants (CD-95449810-3 and CD-00D08913-1), which were awarded to the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection (KDEP); Eastern Kentucky University was contracted by the KDEP to perform field work and other tasks.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesEastern Kentucky UniversityRichmondUSA
  2. 2.Kentucky Division of WaterFrankfortUSA
  3. 3.United States Army Corps of Engineers - Regulatory Sault Sainte Marie Field OfficeSault Sainte MarieUSA

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