Evaluating Wetland Condition Across Nebraska

Starting in 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) initiated a program of National Wetland Condition Assessments (NWCA), with repeat sampling every five years. In addition to the National Assessment, Nebraska has participated in conducting an intensification of the project to increase the number of wetlands sampled in Nebraska. In 2011, wetlands in eleven Biologically Unique Landscapes were sampled. For the current 2016-2017 study, the focus has been tightened onto five Biologically Unique Landscapes

Goals

• Evaluate the overall condition of Nebraska wetlands, within five Biologically Unique Landscapes.
• Identify benchmarks for similar wetlands to be compared to in the future.

Current Status

The 2017 field season started in mid-May and was concluded in mid-July. Surveys were conducted at 60 Nebraska specific intensification sites. Three Biologically Unique Landscapes were selected for the 2017 intensification: Cottonwood–Diamond Willow Woodlands along the Loup Rivers, Eastern Bulrush Deep Marsh Community along the Central Platte, and Freshwater Seeps in northeastern Nebraska. While at each site, personnel analyzed the vegetation, hydrology, soil, water and algae within the assessment area, and the buffer zones around the assessment area.

Only about 3% of Nebraska wetlands are publically owned, so it can be difficult to assess wetland condition. This study will provide important base line data for managers and landowners regarding both public and private wetlands. With repeat sampling of wetlands every five years, wetland condition will be tracked and monitored so that they continue to provide a broad suite of ecosystem services.

Soil profile from a North Loup River wetland site. Photo: Cody Dreier
Soil profile from a North Loup River wetland site. Photo: Cody Dreier
Bob Steinauer (left) assesses vegetation while Avery Dresser (right) excavates the soil pit. Photo: Cody Dreier
Bob Steinauer (left) assesses vegetation while Avery Dresser (right) excavates the soil pit. Photo: Cody Dreier
Principal Investigator(s)
-Craig R. Allen, NE CFWRU, Ted LaGrange
Graduate Student(s)
-Cody Dreier, M.S.
Project Duration
January 2016 - December 2017
Funding
-U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
-Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
Project Location
Statewide Nebraska