2004 Progress Report: Vegetative Indicators of Condition, Integrity, and Sustainability of Great Lakes Coastal Wetlands

EPA Grant Number: R828675C002
Subproject: this is subproject number 002 , established and managed by the Center Director under grant R828675
(EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).

Center: EAGLES - Great Lakes Environmental Indicators Project
Center Director: Niemi, Gerald J.
Title: Vegetative Indicators of Condition, Integrity, and Sustainability of Great Lakes Coastal Wetlands
Investigators: Johnston, Carol A. , Zedler, Joy B. , Bedford, Barbara L. , Moffett, Mary
Current Investigators: Johnston, Carol A. , Zedler, Joy B. , Bedford, Barbara L. , Kelly, John T.
Institution: South Dakota State University , U.S. Environmental Protection Agency , Cornell University , University of Wisconsin - Madison
Current Institution: University of Minnesota , Cornell University , U.S. Environmental Protection Agency , University of Wisconsin - Madison
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: January 10, 2001 through January 9, 2005
Project Period Covered by this Report: January 10, 2003 through January 9, 2004
RFA: Environmental Indicators in the Estuarine Environment Research Program (2000) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration , Water , Ecosystems


The objectives of this research project are to:

  1. identify vegetative indicators of condition of Great Lakes coastal wetlands that can be measured at a variety of scales;
  2. develop relationships between environmental stressors and those vegetative indicators;
  3. and make recommendations about the utility and reliability of vegetative indicators to guide managers toward long-term sustainable development.

Progress Summary:

All groups within the Great Lakes Environmental Indicators (GLEI) Wetland Vegetation subproject worked on data analysis and manuscript preparation during Year 4 of the project. The subproject held its fourth annual field camp in Madison, Wisconsin, on August 20-21, 2004. The field camp is the only time during the year when all subproject personnel assemble in one location. The main objectives of the 2004 field camp were to discuss findings and future manuscripts. Field exercises were conducted to introduce new South Dakota State University (SDSU) graduate student Mirela Tulbure to the visual cover estimation methods used by all field personnel.

The SDSU group conducted field campaigns to collect vegetation data in support of the remote sensing effort. Field teams traveled to the western shore of Green Bay to collect ground truth on July 7-10, September 23-26, and October 21-25. Field reconnaissance also was collected for the Duluth Quickbird site on October 1-2. Data collected included:

  1. GPS points of target species;
  2. sketch vegetation maps of each sample site;
  3. digital photos of each sample site-wide view in each direction and series along transect;
  4. major wetland species within each site area;
  5. and GPS points of other major wetland plant associations.

During the July field campaign, we visited the Point au Sauble wetland (segment 306, complex 1106). Comparing the current vegetation with the vegetation recorded by the University of Wisconsin (UW)- Madison group in 2001, we realized that the vegetation had completely changed to a monoculture of Phragmites australis, which was present in only scattered locations in 2001. We collected new vegetation data to document this dramatic change, and a manuscript is in preparation.

The GLEI Vegetation subgroup participated in several other meetings directly related to GLEI:

  • May 24-28, 2004: Assessing the Great Lakes I and II (special sessions at the International Association for Great Lakes Research), Waterloo, Ontario. Presentations by Aaron Boers and Carol Johnston.
  • September 13-14, 2004: GLEI Data Integration and Analysis Meeting, Duluth, MN. Subproject report by Carol Johnston.
  • September 29-October 1, 2003: Fourth All Estuarine and Great Lakes Program Meeting, Bodega Bay, CA. Subproject report by Carol Johnston.

Michael Bourdaghs, who was the field team leader for the Duluth group throughout the project, successfully defended his thesis in April 2004 and received his M.S. degree in biology. A manuscript based on his thesis research is nearly ready for submission.

Another student trained under this award has obtained full-time employment, the fourth student from this subproject to be successfully placed in the environmental science workforce. Laura Ladwig (2003 field assistant, UW-Madison group) was hired as a marine ecology technician at the Evolutionary Ecology Laboratory at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science in Gloucester Point, Virginia.

As a result of the research conducted by GLEI, the Coastal Management Program of the Wisconsin Department of Administration engaged Joy Zedler, Christin Frieswyk, and Aaron Boers to develop the dominance index into an indicator to help with wetland habitat assessment. Maps of dominants and types of dominance were prepared for the Wisconsin Department of Administration, including about two dozen coastal wetlands. This approach was further discussed at a workshop of the Great Lakes Regional Meeting of Coastal Management Programs, co-led by Frieswyk of this Vegetation subproject and Alberto Vargas of the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program. Zedler and Frieswyk continue to develop the indicator, testing its ability to detect temporal changes in how a species dominates vegetation and which species are dominant.

Zedler has initiated a new series of “fact sheets” that are being published as “Arboretum Leaflets” for eventual dissemination on the Wisconsin Arboretum Web Site. One of these will be about assessing dominance in plant communities. They will be advertised at the University of Wisconsin’s annual Arboretum Science Day, which draws local agency personnel, as well as non-governmental organization members and the public.

Graduate students Frieswyk (UW-Madison) and Lynn Vacarro ( Cornell University) continue to work on their graduate studies. Vacarro M.S. thesis, “Patterns and mechanisms of Typha dominance in wetlands across the Great Lakes,” will be the subject of a future presentation at the joint International Association for Ecology/Ecological Society of America meeting in Montreal this August. Frieswyk’s Ph.D. dissertation is entitled “The behavior of Typha species in Lake Michigan coastal wetlands and the implications for ecosystem resilience.” She has finished most of the analysis of her seed bank study (described in 2003 Annual Report) and is hoping to defend during the fall 2005.

Future Activities:

We will write and publish manuscripts during Year 5 of the project. One manuscript is currently in revision after being reviewed for publication in Ecological Applications, one manuscript is nearly ready for submission, and others are in preparation. The Vegetation subproject is also working with John Brazner on the integrated indicator manuscript.

Journal Articles on this Report : 1 Displayed | Download in RIS Format

Other subproject views: All 37 publications 9 publications in selected types All 7 journal articles
Other center views: All 268 publications 54 publications in selected types All 45 journal articles
Type Citation Sub Project Document Sources
Journal Article Kercher SM, Frieswyk CB, Zedler JB. Effects of sampling teams and estimation methods on the assessment of plant cover. Journal of Vegetation Science 2003;14(6):899-906. R828675 (Final)
R828675C002 (2002)
R828675C002 (2003)
R828675C002 (2004)
R828675C002 (Final)
R828010 (Final)
  • Full-text: University of Wisconsin - Full Text PDF
  • Abstract: Wiley Online-Abstract
  • Supplemental Keywords:

    vegetative indicators, coastal wetlands, floristic quality assessment index, ecosystem resilience, emergent marshes, Great Lakes, environmental indicators, ecological indicators, water, aquatic ecosystem, water quality,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT, Geographic Area, Water, ECOSYSTEMS, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Nutrients, Ecosystem/Assessment/Indicators, Ecosystem Protection, Ecological Effects - Environmental Exposure & Risk, Ecological Monitoring, Environmental Monitoring, Ecological Risk Assessment, Ecology and Ecosystems, Great Lakes, Ecological Indicators, Risk Assessment, ecological condition, nutrient supply, coastal ecosystem, nutrient transport, aquatic ecosystem, diatoms, hydrological stability, ecosystem assessment, hierarchically structured indicators, wetland vegetation, vegetative indicators, environmental stressor, hydrological, coastal environments, environmental consequences, ecological assessment, estuarine ecosystems, nutrient stress, ecosystem indicators, aquatic ecosystems, toxic environmental contaminants, water quality, ecosystem stress

    Relevant Websites:

    http://glei.nrri.umn.edu Exit

    Progress and Final Reports:

    Original Abstract
  • 2001
  • 2002 Progress Report
  • 2003 Progress Report
  • Final Report

  • Main Center Abstract and Reports:

    R828675    EAGLES - Great Lakes Environmental Indicators Project

    Subprojects under this Center: (EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).
    R828675C001 Great Lakes Diatom and Water Quality Indicators
    R828675C002 Vegetative Indicators of Condition, Integrity, and Sustainability of Great Lakes Coastal Wetlands
    R828675C003 Testing Indicators of Coastal Ecosystem Integrity Using Fish and Macroinvertebrates
    R828675C004 Development and Assessment of Environmental Indicators Based on Birds and Amphibians in the Great Lakes Basin
    R828675C005 Development and Evaluation of Chemical Indicators for Monitoring Ecological Risk