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 study, the focus has been tightened onto five Biologically Unique Landscapes: Sandhill Fens in Cherry County and Western Subirrigated Alkaline Meadows in the northwest corner of Nebraska, Cottonwood–Diamond Willow Woodlands along the Loup Rivers, Eastern Bulrush Deep Marsh Community along the Central Platte, and Freshwater Seeps in northeastern Nebraska.

Goals

The primary goals of this project are:
1. Evaluate the vegetation of the vegetation, soil and water of Nebraska wetlands, within five Biologically Unique Landscapes.
2. Identify benchmarks for similar wetlands to be compared to in the future.

Current Status

Surveys were conducted at 100 wetlands within the five Biologically Unique Landscapes during the 2016 and 2017 summers. 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 an 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
-Theodore (Ted) LaGrange, Nebraska Game & Parks Commission

Graduate Student(s)
-Cody Dreier, M.S.(2018)


Project Duration
January 2016 - August 2018

Funding
-U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
-Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

Project Location
Statewide Nebraska