United States
Environmental Protection
Wetland Monitoring & Assessment
A Framework that  Improves Decision Making

The Clean Water Act (CWA) requires that states and tribes monitor and report on
the condition of all waters of the United States, including jurisdictional wetlands.
Scientists and resource managers rely upon wetland monitoring data to assess
wetland health and to guide decision-making. Understanding the causes and
effects of wetland impairment can help improve management decisions in
watersheds. Wetland monitoring is important to gauge the effectiveness of
wetland restoration projects and to help measure the environmental health of

Often, the most direct and effective way of evaluating the ecological condition of a
wetland is (1) to directly measure the condition of the wetlands biological community
and (2) to observe and measure the chemical and physical characteristics of a wetland and its surrounding
                                  Specific Applications of Monitoring Information
                                  1. Evaluate the performance of protection and restoration activities - Wetland
                                  monitoring data can be used to evaluate the success of management activities by
                                  including follow-up monitoring and assessments as a component of management
                                  plans. By periodically conducting wetland assessments, managers can learn which
                                  activities work as planned and which do not work.

                                  2. Support permitting decisions - Wetland monitoring data can be used to help
                                  support permitting decisions made under CWA Sections 401 and 404 and other state,
                                  tribal and local wetland programs. Information from wetland monitoring can be used
                                  to ensure that a permitted activity is likely to comply with a state's water quality
                                  standards. Monitoring information can also be used to define performance standards
                                  for wetland mitigation sites.
Scientists with the
Maine Department of
Protection sample
macroinvertebrates to
test wetland condition.
                                                                 Intensive wetland monitoring helps
                                                                 to test and refine the indicators
                                                                 used in rapid wetland assessment.

Levels or Effort and Products

                                                                    Landscape wetland assessment methods are
                                                                    used to evaluate cumulative impacts on
                                                                    wetlands in a watershed.
A comprehensive wetland monitoring and assessment program is
implemented through three levels of effort. Work may begin at any
level, but each level builds upon the other.
1. Landscape Assessment
    Landscape assessments are used to characterize land uses and the
     distribution and abundance of wetland types across an area.
    This level of assessment is used to determine the geographical
     priorities where more intensive wetland monitoring is to occur,
     as well as identify environmental indicators that can be
     monitored to approximate wetland condition.
    The resulting data layers and landscape profiles provide valuable
     information to guide wetland protection and restoration
     decisions, including the location and design of compensatory
     mitigation projects.
2. Rapid Wetland Assessment
    Rapid wetland assessments evaluate the general condition of individual wetlands using relatively simple indicators.
     These assessment are based upon identifying stressors, such as road crossings, encroachment, tile drainage and pipe
    Rapid wetland assessment methods are used to monitor and report on the cumulative condition of wetlands in a
     watershed, as well as identify sites where more intensive monitoring is needed.
    Results are also used in CWA Section 401/404 permitting and other wetland decisions and can be used to evaluate
     the performance of compensatory wetland mitigation and other restoration projects.
3. Intensive Site Assessment
    Intensive wetland monitoring is necessary to test the indicators used in rapid wetland assessments and to validate
     landscape level assessments. Intensive Site Assessment requires the identification of wetland reference condition.
    This level of assessment is also used to determine the attainment of water quality standards at individual wetlands.
     Monitoring data is used to refine wetland restoration or other management practices where degradation is found.
                                     The Wetland Fact Sheet Series
                            Wetlands Overview
                            Types of Wetlands
                                                               Funding Wetland Projects
                                                               Wetland Monitoring & Assessment
                            Functions & Values of Wetlands    Sustainable Communities
                            Threats to Wetlands
                            Wetland Restoration
                                                               Volunteering for Wetlands
                                                               Teaching about Wetlands
On the Internet
Biological Assessment of Wetlands	www.epa.gov/owow/wetlands/bawwg
Bibliography: Hydrogeomorphic Method for Assessment of Wetlands	 http://itre.ncsu.edu/CTE/hgmbib.html

In Print
Bartoldus, Candy C. 1999. A Comprehensive Review of Wetland Assessment Procedures: A Guide for Wetland
  Practioners. Environmental Concern, Inc. 196 pp. Available from Environmental Concern, Inc., call (410) 745-9620,
  or visit the web at www.wetland.org.
U.S. EPA. 2002 Methods for Evaluating Wetland Condition Modules, Office of Water, U.S. Environmental Protection
  Agency, Washington, DC. Available online at http://www.epa.gov/ost/standards.