Intro to Wetland Monitoring and Assessment

The overarching goal of the department's wetland assessment and monitoring program is to address the success of the state in protecting, managing, and restoring Michigan's wetlands such that they will continue to provide the public benefits defined by the legislature in the Part 303.

More specifically, the assessment and monitoring of Michigan's wetland resources is needed to provide information to address diverse program issues at a variety of scales, from the status and trends of statewide wetland acreage to the detailed evaluation of individual wetland sites.  Wetlands are a component of the waters of the state, and of the waters of the United States, and as such are protected under Michigan's surface water quality standards.  Monitoring and assessment are needed to address periodic federal reporting requirements regarding the physical, chemical, and biological integrity of Michigan's wetlands.

Moreover, the evaluation of individual wetlands is an integral component of Michigan's regulatory program under Part 303 and Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, which also requires annual reporting on statewide regulatory impacts.  And, on a different scale, land use planners are increasingly considering wetland functions, wetland quality, and restoration opportunities in watershed scale planning and in local nonpoint source control programs.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has developed a 3-tiered framework for the assessment and monitoring of wetland resources that has been adopted by the department's wetlands program.

Level 1:  Landscape Assessment

The use of GIS and remote sensing to gain a landscape view of watershed and wetland condition.  Typical assessment indicators include wetland coverage (NWI), land use, and land cover.  Applications for Landscape Assessment include:  Status and trends, targeting restoration and monitoring, and landscape condition assessment.

Level 2:  Rapid Wetland Assessment

The evaluation of the general condition of individual wetlands using relatively simple field indicators.  Assessment is often based on the characterization of stressors known to limit wetland functions (e.g., road crossings, tile draining, ditching).  Applications for Rapid Wetland Assessment include assessing a site's functional value, watershed planning, and monitoring.  The department has developed the Michigan Rapid Assessment Method for this purpose.

Level 3:  Intensive Site Assessment (i.e., Monitoring)

The production of quantitative data with known certainty on wetland condition within an assessment area, used to refine rapid wetland assessment methods and diagnose the cause of wetland degradation.  Assessment is typically accomplished using IBI's or HGM.  Applications for Intensive Site Assessment include water quality standard development, integrated reporting, and verification of Levels 1 and 2 assessments.