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Wetlands

, 23:636 | Cite as

Estimated extent of geographically isolated wetlands in selected areas of the United States

  • Ralph W. TinerEmail author

Abstract

In preparing a major report on geographically isolated wetlands, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) initiated a study of the extent of these wetlands across the country. The FWS used geographic information system (GIS) technology to analyze existing digital data (e.g., National Wetlands Inventory data and U.S. Geological Survey hydrologic data) to predict the extent of isolated wetlands in 72 study areas. Study sites included areas where specific types of “isolated” wetlands (e.g., Prairie Pothole marshes, playas, Rainwater Basin marshes and meadows, terminal basins, sinkhole wetlands, Carolina bays, and West Coast vernal pools) were known to occur, as well as areas from other physiographic regions. In total, these sites represented a broad cross-section of America’s landscape. Although intended to show examples of the extent of isolated wetlands across the country, the study was not designed to generate statistically significant estimates of isolated wetlands for the nation. As expected, the extent of isolated wetlands was quite variable. The study found that isolated wetlands constituted a significant proportion of the wetland resource in arid and semi-arid to subhumid regions and in karst topography. Eight study areas had more than half of their wetland area designated as isolated, while 24 other areas had 20–50 percent of their wetland area in this category. For most sites, isolated wetlands represented a greater percent of the total number of wetlands than the percent of wetland area. This was largely attributed to difference in wetland size, with most non-isolated wetlands being larger than the isolated wetlands. Forty-three sites had more than 50 percent of their total number of wetlands designated as isolated. The estimates of isolated wetlands presented in this study cannot be readily translated to wetlands that have lost Clean Water Act “protection” based on a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling for several reasons, including the lack of written guidance on interpreting the Court’s decision for identifying jurisdictional wetlands. The results of this GIS analysis present one perspective on the extent of geographically isolated wetlands in the country and represent a starting point for more detailed assessments.

Key Words

Carolina bays coastal plain wetlands Delmarva potholes Gulf Coast Prairie flatwood wetlands geographically isolated wetlands isolated wetlands jurisdictional wetlands playas Prairie Pothole wetlands Rainwater Basin wetlands Sandhills wetlands terminal basins West Coast vernal pools 

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Copyright information

© Society of Wetland Scientists 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.U.S. Fish and Wildlife ServiceNortheast RegionHadleyUSA

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