|Study Area:||North Coastal and Ipswich River watersheds|
|Funding:||U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (through Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, with in-kind match and support from various non-Federal partners|
|Report:||Massachusetts' North Shore Wetlands Assessment Project: Transferring a Wetland Assessment Method to the North Coastal and Ipswich River Watersheds file size 6MB|
The fundamental purpose of the North Shore Wetland Assessment Project was to transfer the wetland assessment approach and methodologies conducted in the Waquoit Bay watershed pilot project. The Waquoit pilot project enabled investigators from the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) and the University of Massachusetts (UMass) to pioneer innovative tools to aid in the assessment of wetland ecological integrity. In the North Shore project, the CZM team took the pilot methodology and applied it to selected wetland study sites located in two coastal watersheds of Massachusetts—the Ipswich and the North Coastal.
Through this second application of the Wetland Assessment Method, the project team concluded that the fundamental design, approach, and techniques are effective tools for measuring indicators of wetland integrity. The team also decided that changes were necessary for different components of the Wetland Assessment Method. As documented in the final report, 13 recommendations are made for revision. The most noteworthy of these recommendations are those for establishing a consistent evaluation area within wetland study sites; modifying the vegetation and invertebrate sampling protocols; revising data analysis procedures for vegetation and invertebrates; and further evaluating the multi-metric data analysis structure for water quality parameters.
Despite the recognized need for modifications to the Wetland Assessment Method, the North Shore Transfer Project was successful in several areas. First, the fundamental design of the assessment approach developed in the Waquoit pilot project held sound for this second application. Reference-based comparative designs for wetland assessment have since been nationally recognized as a preferred approach. In taking the same basic protocols developed on southern Cape Cod and applying them to wetland sites on the North Shore, the investigators were encouraged to witness results that demonstrate strikingly similar patterns of degradation linked with human land use and disturbance. Secondly, through the data analysis process, it became apparent that most, but not all, of the attribute metrics developed for the pilot project were valid and responsive when applied to the North Shore study sites. Lastly, the statistical analysis of the North Shore data and results reveals important relationships and strong associations among different biological and chemical indicators as well as habitat and land use measures. These two separate wetland assessment projects have established a significant connection between the surrounding land use and sources of stressors and a wetland's ecological condition.
With continued applications of the Wetland Assessment Method, several important objectives and challenges remain. There is a continued need to establish long-term datasets for wetland reference sites. To understand the response of systems to anthropogenic influence, it is first necessary to document and understand the natural variability of sites that are minimally affected by human disturbance. It is also important to see if the Wetland Assessment Method can be transferred to other applications, such as the investigation of tidal hydrological restrictions of salt marsh wetlands. Assessment work to document the effects and to track the response of tidal restoration projects is underway on Cape Cod and the North Shore. With each additional wetland wetland assessment project, the database of surveyed taxa increases. The biological attributes for taxa should be re-examined and attributes for new taxa developed. The continued development and verification of this biological attribute database is of critical importance to the effectiveness of the assessment approach.
See the North Shore report at: Massachusetts' North Shore Wetlands Assessment Project: Transferring a Wetland Assessment Method to the North Coastal and Ipswich River Watersheds file size 6MB .
CZM's other Wetland Assessment Projects (1995-2004) are listed below: