Wetland Assessment and Monitoring

Wetlands perform critical functions and services for the people of Colorado. Wetlands in good condition are better able to provide those services than wetlands that have been degraded. Assessment and monitoring programs are essential for measuring the quality of wetland health and the level of functions they perform. Wetland assessments provide baseline information on the ambient condition of wetland resources, inform management decisions, and help target wetland restoration projects. Long term monitoring can reveal change in the resource base over time.

Level 1-2-3 Framework for Wetland Assessment

Because it is impossible to visit every wetland to determine its condition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends a three-tiered approach to wetland assessment. The Level 1-2-3 framework for wetland assessment and monitoring is a hierarchical approach that involves increasing degrees of effort and cost with each increasing level of assessment.

  • Level 1 (landscape assessment) relies on coarse, landscape scale inventory information, typically gathered through remote sensing and preferably stored in, or convertible to, a geographic information system (GIS) format.
  • Level 2 (rapid assessment) is at the specific wetland site scale, using relatively simple, rapid protocols.
  • Level 3 (intensive site assessment) uses intensive research-derived, multi-metric indices of biological integrity. Nearly all assessment methods in use today fit within one or more levels of this paradigm.
  • Assessment Methods - CHNP has developed assessment and monitoring protocols for all three levels within the Level 1-2-3 Framework. In addition to protocols developed by CNHP, several wetland and riparian assessment protocols are used by various Colorado agencies and partners.
  • Basinwide Assessments - Since 2008, CNHP has conducted field surveys to assess the condition of wetlands in three major river basins. Our goal is to survey each of the major river basins on a rotating schedule every 10 to 15 years. Results from these surveys help guide restoration priorities for Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Wetland Program and other conservation partners.
  • National Wetland Condition Assessment - In 2011, CNHP conducted field sampling in Colorado and Wyoming for the EPA’s first National Wetland Condition Assessment