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A Landscape Ecology Approach to Identifying Ecological Vulnerability in Geographically Isolated Wetlands

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Abstract:U.S. EPA 's Office of Research and Development is using a landscape approach to assess the ecological/hydrologic functions of geographically isolated wetlands in the mid-western, southern, and western regions of the United States. Geographically isolated wetlands are considered to be vulnerable to human disturbance and many of those wetlands may be at high risk as a result of recent court rulings and associated jurisdictional interpretations of wetland functions. The total amount of wetlands impacted by this situation is unclear but rough estimates range from hundreds of thousands to multiple millions of acres in the U.S. EPA study areas. Much of the interpretational differences are a result of the uncertainty associated with the abundance, degree of isolation, and potential for disturbance in these wetlands. U.S. EPA is using a combination of recent remote sensing data and landscape ecology to assess the abundance, potential for hydrologic connectivity, and potential for disturbance in these relatively small and ephemeral ecosystems. An improved understanding of the condition of geographically isolated wetlands, particularly in key areas of intense agricultural and urban land use, will help to inform jurisdictional and regulatory decision-making processes throughout the United States. The initial study areas are in the Midwest, Texas coastal, and California coastal regions, which provide the necessary biophysical gradient for the landscape-ecological analyses. The study approach integrates the use of remote-sensing, geographic information systems analyses, existing field data, and a priori knowledge of geographically isolated wetlands to estimate extent, connectivity, and ecological/hydrologic functions. This ongoing approach focuses on locating and quantifying the cumulative area of geographically isolated wetlands, and modeling ecological/hydrologic/societal wetland functions. Those functions include support for aquatic life use; decreasing the loss of human life and property damage from floods; providing fish and wildlife habitat; and supporting sustainable recreational use of the environment.
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Citation:Lopez, R. D. A Landscape Ecology Approach to Identifying Ecological Vulnerability in Geographically Isolated Wetlands. Presented at Monitoring Science and Technology Symposium, Denver, CO, September 20-24, 2004.
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Contact: Chris Siebert - (702) 798-2234 or siebert.christopher@epa.gov
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Division: Environmental Sciences Division
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Branch: Landscape Ecology Branch
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Product Type: Abstrct/Oral
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Presented: 09/20/2004
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Related Entries:
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Bullet Item Landscape Indicators of Surface Water Conditions
spacer Relationship Reason:   A Project of the Product
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