Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Smithsonian researchers develop models to assess wetland health

18.09.2007
Healthy wetlands perform vital ecological functions in a watershed. But assessing their condition and ability to perform those functions is not easy, especially as wetlands are disappearing fast due to human encroachment.

In a special issue of the journal Wetlands, Smithsonian scientists report a promising method of wetland assessment that will help environmental managers quickly take stock of wetlands across an entire watershed. Tools for this kind of rapid watershed-scale assessment—relying on a few easily measurable key factors—have been previously unavailable to managers.

In three papers, Dennis Whigham, Donald Weller and Thomas Jordan of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center and their colleagues present the results of a large-scale study that combines field studies and remote-sensing data to assess the ecological functioning of wetlands in a landscape.

The researchers based their study on an approach previously developed for assessing individual sites, called the Hydrogeomorphic (HGM) approach, in which ecological conditions are inferred from readily observable indicators, such as plant species present and the degree of human disturbance.

“We took these methods for assessing wetland functions and expanded them to a whole-landscape scale, which is something that has not been effectively done before,” said Whigham, who coordinated the project. “These days, most land managers are not asking how to understand what is going on in an individual wetland, they want to manage resources at a much larger scale.”

Wetlands are important buffers for flood control, can absorb pollutants and excess nutrients and provide critical habitats for many plants and animals, including some threatened and endangered species.

For this study, the researchers focused on non-tidal wetlands in the Nanticoke River watershed of Maryland and Delaware. Draining into the Chesapeake Bay, the Nanticoke system is one of the most biologically important and wetland-rich watersheds in the mid-Atlantic region. Wetlands are found along streams (riverine wetlands) and in poorly drained uplands called “flats.”

During the first year of the project, the researchers visited wetlands of both types, taking field measurements and observations according to the HGM protocol at more than 100 sites. They used the data to formulate models to rate the condition of the sites, which ranged from nearly undisturbed to highly degraded. The sites were chosen according to a statistical procedure developed by the Environmental Protection Agency to ensure that they were representative of the entire landscape.

For a subset of the sites, the researchers took a closer look at one important ecological function of wetlands: the cycling of nutrients, particularly nitrogen. Many watersheds are overloaded in nutrients due to runoff from agricultural fields and other sources. The result is diminished water quality. But soils in healthy wetlands contain bacteria that remove excess nitrogen by a process called denitrification and can restore water quality.

“We found that you can predict denitrification potential from some fairly easy-to-measure properties of the soil, such as percent organic matter or pH,” said Jordan, who led this portion of the study.

As a final step, the researchers took the results of the field assessments and compared them with digital maps and remotely sensed data, such as satellite land cover images.

“The idea was to develop statistical models that would successfully predict what was observed in the field,” said Weller, whose lab performed the analysis. “Once you’ve developed the models, you then can assess additional wetlands without having to go out and sample them,” he added. While the models cannot predict the precise conditions at a given site, they can provide enough information to identify potentially degraded areas and help guide management priorities in a watershed.

Kimbra Cutlip | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.si.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Successful calculation of human and natural influence on cloud formation
04.11.2016 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main

nachricht Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Porous crystalline materials: TU Graz researcher shows method for controlled growth

07.12.2016 | Materials Sciences

Simple processing technique could cut cost of organic PV and wearable electronics

06.12.2016 | Materials Sciences

3-D printed kidney phantoms aid nuclear medicine dosing calibration

06.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>