News Brief

Feds Complete First National Wetlands Inventory

The “wetlands mapper” is now available for more accurate site assessments that include the size and value of wetland areas.

Federal researchers hope the new wetland mapping tool will help slow the loss of coastal wetlands.

Photo: Ryan Hagerty, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) recently completed a 35-year effort to map the extent of the nation’s wetlands and make the data available to the public.

Researchers created the maps by using high-altitude images to identify the location of wetlands based on vegetation, visible hydrology, and geography. Data is available for the conterminous 48 States, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, the major Northern Mariana Islands, and much of Alaska. Information about wetland types, vegetation, regional and temporal conditions, and geographic features are available in a “historic map document” available by geographic region.

The new data may facilitate more accurate site analysis by identifying the most sensitive areas to preserve and helping architects and planners evaluate the ecological services that specific wetlands provide. Despite growing awareness and more legislation protecting wetlands, the reported average annual rate of coastal wetland loss was 80,160 acres between 2004 and 2009 (see Coastal Wetlands Disappearing Faster Than Before).

“The completion of this wetland dataset marks a significant milestone in national efforts to conserve wetlands in the United States,” stated Gary Frazer, assistant director for ecological services at FWS, in a press release. “This online mapper is a key tool in the ever-more-challenging quest to maintain the health of our wetland habitats and the biodiversity they sustain.”

Published June 1, 2014

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