Navigation Links
Smithsonian researchers develop models to assess wetland health

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 assessmentrelying on a few easily measurable key factorshave 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 youve 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.


Contact: Kimbra Cutlip

Related biology news :

1. Smithsonian scientists discover new marine species in eastern Pacific
2. Researchers discover way to make cells in the eye sensitive to light
3. Researchers find how protein allows insects to detect and respond to pheromones
4. Researchers Uncover Key Step In Manufacture of Memory Protein
5. NYU researchers simulate molecular biological clock
6. Researchers reveal the infectious impact of salmon farms on wild salmon
7. Researchers identify target for cancer drugs
8. Vital step in cellular migration described by UCSD medical researchers
9. ASU researchers finds novel chemistry at work to provide parrots vibrant red colors
10. UCSD researchers maintain stem cells without contaminated animal feeder layers
11. Researchers discover molecule that causes secondary stroke
Post Your Comments:
(Date:5/3/2016)... 3, 2016  Neurotechnology, a provider of high-precision ... Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) , a complete ... MegaMatcher ABIS can process multiple complex biometric transactions ... of fingerprint, face or iris biometrics. It leverages ... and MegaMatcher Accelerator , which have been ...
(Date:4/26/2016)... 27, 2016 Research and ... Biometrics Market 2016-2020"  report to their offering.  , ... The analysts forecast the global multimodal biometrics ... during the period 2016-2020.  Multimodal biometrics ... such as the healthcare, BFSI, transportation, automotive, and ...
(Date:4/14/2016)... TEL AVIV, Israel , April 14, 2016 /PRNewswire/ ... in Behavioral Authentication and Malware Detection, today announced the ... has already assumed the new role. Goldwerger,s ... for BioCatch, on the heels of the deployment of ... In addition, BioCatch,s behavioral biometric technology, which discerns unique ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/27/2016)... , June 27, 2016  Sequenom, Inc. (NASDAQ: ... enabling healthier lives through the development of innovative products ... the United States denied its ... the claims of Sequenom,s U.S. Patent No. 6,258,540 (",540 ... criteria established by the Supreme Court,s Mayo Collaborative Services ...
(Date:6/27/2016)... , June 27, 2016  Liquid Biotech ... announced the funding of a Sponsored Research Agreement ... circulating tumor cells (CTCs) from cancer patients.  The ... in CTC levels correlate with clinical outcomes in ... These data will then be employed to support ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... June 24, 2016 , ... Researchers at the Universita ... miRNAs in people with peritoneal or pleural mesothelioma. Their findings are the subject of ... now. , Diagnostic biomarkers are signposts in the blood, lung fluid or tissue ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... 2016 A person commits a crime, and the ... track the criminal down. An outbreak of foodborne ... Administration (FDA) uses DNA evidence to track down the bacteria ... far-fetched? It,s not. The FDA has increasingly used a complex, ... foodborne illnesses. Put as simply as possible, whole genome sequencing ...
Breaking Biology Technology: