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Protect
wetlands through land use planning, acquisition and wetland protection laws.
Restore
wetlands to improve wetland health and function and by re-establishing destroyed wetlands.
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wetlands by getting your feet wet and learning about their wonders.

Wisconsin wetlands: assessment methods and tools

This page provides access to some of the assessment methodologies that the DNR and others have developed to assess the health of wetlands and the services they provide. Some methods focus on individual wetlands, while others focus on assessing many wetlands at a time in a larger area, such as a watershed. These assessment methods require a great deal of professional expertise to carry out. The type of assessment tool you use depends on the questions you are trying to answer and the time, resources and expertise available.

Level 1, 2, 3 Approach to wetland assessment and monitoring

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Wetlands Monitoring Workgroup has endorsed the concept of a Level 1, 2, 3 approach to monitoring. Level 1, "landscape assessment," relies on coarse, landscape scale inventory information, typically gathered through remote sensing and preferably stored in, or convertible to, a geographic information system (GIS) format. Level 2 is "rapid assessment" at the specific wetland site scale, using relatively simple, rapid protocols. Level 2 assessment protocols are to be validated by and calibrated to Level 3 assessments. Level 3 is "intensive site assessment," and uses intensive research–derived, multi–metric indices of biological integrity. All of these methods have been developed with grants from EPA, Region V.

Level 1

  • Milwaukee River Basin Wetland Assessment Project: Developing Decision Support Tools for Effective Planning [2006, PDF]
    The full Final Report to EPA describes:
    1. A method for identifying "potentially restorable wetlands", in the Basin.
    2. A set of wetland–related "watershed metrics" that characterize ecological conditions in the watersheds and subwatersheds of the basin.
    3. A Wildlife Habitat Decision Support Tool that planners can use to evaluate the wildlife support provided by existing wetland habitats and a means of evaluating future land use scenerios. For instance, a planner could evaluate where wetland restoration can generate the most benefit for wildlife.
    4. A Water Quality Decision Support Tool that planners can use to evaluate the relative contributions of existing wetlands to downstream water quality in different watersheds. This can also be used to evaluate future land use scenarios and where wetland restoration can generate the most benefit for improving water quality.
    5. Progress to date on a Floodwater Storage Decision Support Tool.
    6. Discussion of the uses and limitations of the project data and tools.

Level 2

Level 3

  • Development of a Floristic Quality Assessment Methodology for Wisconsin [June 2003, PDF]
    This method allows for an intensive, expert-based, assessment of the floristic quality, or biological condition, of a given wetland plant community. It is based on the assignment of a coefficient of conservatism to the vascular plant species found in Wisconsin. The method requires a high degree of plant identification skill to correctly inventory the site.
    • The Wisconsin Floristic Quality Assessment Calculator (May 2017) [XLSX]
      The FQA Calculator is now available to enter plant inventory data and calculate FQA metrics, such as the average coefficient of conservatism (Mean C) and the Floristic Quality Index (FQI). It contains the most recent (2016) authoritative list of plant species, as recognized by the Wisconsin State Herbarium, along with their assigned coefficient of conservatism, wetland indicator status and other useful information. It is designed to allow users to enter the results of timed meander surveys (plant names and percent areal cover) to calculate weighted Mean C and weighted FQI, as well as other useful metrics. FQA results from select wetland community types can be compared to benchmark values allowing a site to be assigned a category along a biological condition gradient. Because it contains the complete WI plant list, it can be used to calculate FQA metrics for any plant community in Wisconsin.
    • Timed-Meander Sampling Protocol for Wetland Floristic Quality Assessment [PDF]
      This standard operating procedure (SOP) describes the methods used by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to conduct timed-meander surveys of wetland plant communities to determine their condition.
  • Wisconsin depressional wetland biological indices (two versions):
Contact information
For more wetlands information, please contact:
Tom Bernthal
Last Revised: Tuesday May 23 2017