Examining the Effects of Wetland Loss on Flooding: A Spatial and Temporal Analysis

EPA Grant Number: F5C40614
Title: Examining the Effects of Wetland Loss on Flooding: A Spatial and Temporal Analysis
Investigators: Highfield, Wesley E.
Institution: Texas A & M University
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: September 1, 2005 through May 1, 2008
Project Amount: $99,547
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2005) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships


Anthropogenic alterations to the landscape have exacerbated the pervasive threat of flooding on human settlements and populations. In addition, the continuing pattern of development within coastal areas generates increased vulnerability to flooding. Previous research indicates that wetlands act as storage for flood waters, but at varying levels. Furthermore, much of this research is conducted on a small scale and cannot be generalized to broad areas. Research to address the cumulative effect of wetland losses and alterations on flooding is necessary to begin to understand the effects of wetland development on flooding over time.

The goal of my proposed research is to determine the degree to which wetland loss and alteration have affected flooding over a 12 year time period in coastal Texas. Research questions to be addressed include:

  1. What are the spatial patterns and general characteristics of wetland permitting activity during the study period,
  2. Have wetland losses during the study period increased flooding and flood damages,
  3. and Is the geographical location of permits within a watershed a significant factor in determining impact on flooding?


Fourth-order hydrologic units will serve as the unit of analysis for this research. Wetland losses will be measured using the permit record obtained from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, Galveston District from 1990 – 2002. Flooding will be measured using records of daily gage heights and streamflows from the U.S. Geological Survey, as well as disaster damage data recorded by the National Climatic Data Center “Storm Data” publications. Control variables will measure various environmental, geomorphological and sociodemographic characteristics. Point pattern analysis and spatial statistics will be employed to characterize the spatial distribution of wetland permits over time. The effects of wetland loss on flooding will be analyzed using multiple spatial autoregressive models and panel data analysis.

Expected Results:

I expect this research to provide insights on the unique spatial patterns of wetland permitting activity over time. I also expect the cumulative loss of wetland habitat as measured by wetland permit data to be a significant variable in explaining both flooding and flood damage.

Supplemental Keywords:

Flooding, Wetlands, Environmental Planning, 404 Permitting, Spatial Analysis, Coastal Margins,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Monitoring/Modeling, Environmental Monitoring, Ecology and Ecosystems, anthropogenic stress, ecosystem management model, environmental measurement, watershed, conservation, land degradation, environmental stress, ecological models, spatial autoregressive models, flooding, land management

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2006
  • 2007
  • Final