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Wetland Monitoring and Assessment
Program At-a-Glance
Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Effectiveness Activities At-a-Glance (word)

Background
Over the past century wetlands have been drained, filled and otherwise impacted to the point that it is a priority in many areas to conserve remaining wetlands and restore functions and conditions of existing wetlands. Several fish, wildlife and plant species are dependent on wetlands for various parts of their life cycle.  In addition properly functioning wetlands provide key ecological functions, including storm water retention and nutrient capture to name just a couple. These functions also provide ecosystem services such as improved water quality and reduced flooding duration and extent among many others. Recently, Oregon has been exploring how to provide ecosystem credits for restoring these services, with the intent of providing an alternate means to protect the environment, provide key ecological functions and deliver an incentive to landowners to do so. It is critical to develop a clearer understanding of the current status and condition of wetlands in order to continue addressing wetland restoration and mitigation actions. Since 1997, the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) has provided nearly $10 million to wetland restoration projects throughout Oregon. The Department of State Lands (DSL) ensures that wetlands across Oregon, which may be impacted by permitted activities, are successfully replaced by required wetland mitigation actions and that permit conditions are closely followed. However there is no comprehensive program for monitoring and assessing the condition and function of restored, enhanced, or mitigated wetlands in Oregon. 

In 2009, OWEB partnered with The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, Adamus Resource Assessment Inc. and DSL to begin working towards developing and refining monitoring tools such as a preliminary invertebrate index of biological integrity (I-IBI), rapid monitoring techniques, and detailed effectiveness monitoring. The main objectives of the pilot study were to:
  • Increase wetland acreage and gains in wetland function and/or condition due to improved pre-implementation evaluation of wetlands
  • Increase the effectiveness of wetland restoration projects by applying past project performance during the development of new projects
  • Increase use and standardization of biological monitoring tools to assess wetland function and condition
  • Provide additional data and information on wetland investments in  a widely accessible format and improve accuracy and completeness of such data
Project Summary
Using information obtained from OWEB’s restoration database and DSL’s mitigation database, 50 wetlands in the Willamette Valley were sampled in the summers of 2009 and 2010. Sampling parameters consisted of macroinvertebrates, water quality, wetland soil, wetland vegetation and also observations of birds and amphibians. In addition, a rapid assessment protocol was further tested for its reliability in this pilot project. These methods when further developed and refined are intended to provide the framework for an Oregon Wetland Effectiveness Monitoring Guide.  Monitoring will continue at these sites over time to provide more insight into the long term effectiveness of various wetland actions. This monitoring may also be replicated in other areas of Oregon such as the north coast and eastern Oregon.
 
Outcomes
When data from various levels of monitoring were analyzed, results indicate that:
  • Macroinvertebrate sampling and rapid site disturbance assessment are reliable, repeatable and appear to be consistent between sampling years and sampling teams
  • The macroinvertebrate community in flats wetlands has lower species diversity and those species are more tolerant of a range of ecological impairment compared to riverine wetlands
  • Wetlands categorized as “enhanced” or “restored” were noted as being wetter, with more open water and more open water for a longer time period compared to “natural” wetlands 
  • Correlations between rapid and detailed effectiveness monitoring show that sites with a higher percentage of invasive plant species also scored lower for resident fish habitat and invertebrate habitat
A few lessons learned from the project are:
  • Additional information may be necessary to accurately describe pre-wetland function and condition to improve the ability to report on the effectiveness of wetland restoration and mitigation actions over time
  • Variation in macroinvertebrate communities was so great between sampling years that rendering a robust I-IBI was not possible.  Additional macroinvertebrate sampling is needed to evaluate the feasibility of producing a reliable I-IBI
How will OWEB use this information?
  • These methods when further developed and refined are intended to provide the framework for an Oregon Wetland Effectiveness Monitoring Guide. Monitoring will continue at these sites over time to provide more insight into the long term effectiveness of various wetland actions. This monitoring may also be replicated in other areas of Oregon such as the north coast and eastern Oregon
  • Significant effort was devoted to improving accuracy and completeness of existing database and GIS information of previous mitigation actions. These improvements will allow for timely reporting of existing wetland conditions and possible increases in wetland condition and function. Mapping information is intended to be shared with Oregon Wetland Explorer in the future
  • OWEB will begin sharing this information with restoration practitioners and reconvene the wetland planning project team to help distribute this information and gather support for continuing the development of understanding wetland function and condition in Oregon
 
 

Project Reports
Ecological Condition and Functions of Enhanced, Restored, and Reference Wetlands in the Willamette Valley, Oregon (PDF)
 
Developing a Framework for the Oregon Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Program: Developing an Invertebrate-Based Monitoring Tool to Assess the Biological Integrity of Pacific Northwest Freshwater Wetlands (PDF)
 
Oregon's Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Program: A Pilot Study (PDF)