Wetland Monitoring Activities

National Wetland Condition Assessment (NWCA)

The NWCA was the EPA's first national survey of the wetlands of the US. About 900 wetlands were surveyed nationally, with 47 wetlands surveyed in North Carolina. EPA provided the Program Development Unit with grant funding to conduct the North Carolina surveys during the summer of 2011. All of the wetland sites were located in the Coastal Plain and included Salt/Brackish Marshes, Riverine Swamp Forests, Pocosins, and Bottomland Hardwood Forests. The survey was an intensive one day process that involved data collection related to vegetation, soils, hydrology, and water quality. Buffer assessments and multiple rapid assessments were also conducted. Data analysis is currently being conducted by EPA and will result in a comprehensive report to assess the health of the nation's wetlands that will be released at the end of 2013. This national effort is scheduled to be repeated every 5 years.  

Southeast Wetland Monitoring Intensification Grant (SWMIG)

The SWMIG is a follow-up to the NWCA. NC DWR is the lead agency working with South Carolina and Alabama to survey additional wetlands from the population of NWCA wetland sites to add to the EPA's database for wetland data including vegetation, soils, hydrology, water quality, buffer assessment, and rapid assessment methods. Georgia also participated in the effort under a separate grant. The main objective of this work is to use this new data from across the Southeast to place a regional emphasis on wetland condition. North Carolina is also helping to mentor the wetland monitoring programs in SC and AL so that other states can build on our wetlands monitoring experience. Field data collection for this project was completed in summer of 2013. Data analysis is currently underway, and the final report will be completed by the end of 2013.

Isolated Wetland Connectivity

This U.S. EPA funded three year study on isolated wetlands in the coastal plain of North and South Carolina was done in collaboration with scientists from the University of South Carolina and the NC DWR Aquifer Protection Section. The five goals of this study were: 1) to characterize the hydrological ground water connection of isolated wetlands with streams and non-isolated wetlands; 2) to determine whether isolated wetlands absorb pollution; 3) to characterize the plant, amphibian, and macroinvertebrate communities and develop metrics which indicate site condition and quality; 4) to further verify and validate the NC Wetland Assessment Method (NCWAM); and 5) to determine the number of isolated wetland acres that have been impacted and mitigated for in the state of North Carolina. Groundwater monitoring wells installed between the isolated wetlands and stream or non-isolated wetlands were used to study the hydrology and water quality at each study site. The results indicated there is a definitive ground water connection between isolated wetlands and nearby streams and non-isolated wetlands in the landscape. The soils surveys and water quality surveys indicate that isolated wetlands absorb both organic carbon, phosphorous and nitrogen. Metrics were developed for forested isolated wetlands that can be used to quantify the quality of the plant community. Unfortunately, limited results of the amphibian and aquatic macroinvertebrate community due to unusually dry weather did not allow for the development of these metrics. The results of this study did further validate and verify NCWAM as a useable rapid assessment tool. During an approximate 10 year timeline, 82.2 acres of isolated wetlands were impacted and reported through the permitting process and 86.0 acres of wetlands were mitigated resulting in nearly a 1:1 impact to mitigation ratio. However, the mitigated sites generally were not isolated wetlands with the same valuable habitat conditions that promote the establishment of amphibian communities. Click here to read the full study.


For more information about wetlands monitoring projects, please contact Rick Savage at 919-807-6475 or rick.savage@ncdenr.gov