Since 1996, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been encouraging states to develop monitoring and assessment methods for wetlands and to begin reporting on wetland condition, similar to efforts currently required for statewide water quality conditions. Because of the complexity of wetland systems, no systematic approach exists recently to measure, document, and describe the condition of coastal and inland wetlands. The Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) has been actively working since 1995, however, on projects to advance wetland assessment methods and approaches for coastal systems and to assist the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) with the development and implementation of a statewide wetlands monitoring and assessment program. CZM is also engaged in working with MassDEP and the Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Ecological Restoration (DER) to identify how information on wetland condition can be used to improve existing state programs for wetlands protection and restoration. CZM has long supported volunteer involvement, local stewardship, and public education as a component of overall coastal wetlands conservation.
The goals of CZM’s coastal wetland monitoring and assessment work are to:
- Develop and evaluate techniques for assessing the ecological integrity of coastal wetlands in order to:
- Inventory wetland sites at defined scales: local, regional, or state-wide.
- Report on wetland condition and track changes in status over time.
- Identify degraded wetland sites.
- Evaluate wetlands for restoration potential.
- Monitor the success of restoration and mitigation projects.
- Share assessment techniques and results with interested parties, including other agencies, local officials, nonprofit organizations, as well as interested citizens, to promote improved coastal wetlands protection and conservation.
- Promote discussion among coastal wetland managers on how to plan for the effects of sea level rise and climate change on coastal wetlands systems.