Assessing Wetland Condition on a Watershed Basis in the Mid-Atlantic Region Using Synoptic Land-Cover Maps
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We developed a series of tools to address three integrated tasks needed to effectively manage wetlands on a watershed basis: inventory, assessment, and restoration. Depending on the objectives of an assessment, availability of resources, and degree of confidence required in the results, there are three levels of effort available to address these three tasks. This paper describes the development and use of synoptic land-cover maps (Level 1) to assess wetland condition for a watershed. The other two levels are a rapid assessment using ground reconnaissance (Level 2) and intensive field assessment (Level 3). To illustrate the application of this method, seven watersheds in Pennsylvania were investigated representing a range of areas (89–777 km2), land uses, and ecoregions found in the Mid-Atlantic Region. Level 1 disturbance scores were based on land cover in 1-km radius circles centered on randomly-selected wetlands in each watershed. On a standardized, 100-point, human-disturbance scale, with 100 being severely degraded and 1 being the most ecologically intact, the range of scores for the seven watersheds was a relatively pristine score of 4 to a moderately degraded score of 66. This entire process can be conducted in a geographic information system (GIS)-capable office with readily available data and without engaging in extensive field investigations. We recommend that agencies and organizations begin the process of assessing wetlands by adopting this approach as a first step toward determining the condition of wetlands on a watershed basis.
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