Initially the MSC wanted to study the technical problems associated with an uncoordinated NSDI relating to wetland data. However, when we began to study the problem, an even larger set of problems emerged. Therefore this case study has the following three goals:

  • to determine the feasibility of establishing a national system that delineates and records the conditions of all regulated and nonregulated U.S. wetlands;

  • to describe the impediments (if any) that limit this nation from delineating and recording the condition of its regulated and nonregulated wetlands; and

  • to consider the extent to which these impediments are indicative of other natural phenomena of national consequence requiring delineation, monitoring, and eventual regulation.

Wetlands were chosen as an example because they reflect environmental and physical phenomena that need to be measured, depicted, and analyzed differently than discrete objects, such as building footprints or street centerlines and associated street addresses. Wetlands were also chosen because they are of national concern and interest. They are indicative of how our nation goes about administering and managing natural resources. Wetlands also illustrate how the scientific community goes about the identification, classification, and delineation process in contrast to how a society goes about the difficult process of deciding on the subset it is willing to regulate. Similar examples of national interest could be the geographic distribution and condition of endangered species habitat or species ranges or a national assessment and monitoring of biodiverse land areas. If these two examples were to become issues of national interest what could be learned from this nation's attempts to map, monitor, and regulate its wetlands?

This appendix introduces the issues regarding wetlands that make them possible to measure scientifically but difficult to regulate as a natural resource. Wetlands are excellent examples of informational needs about other natural phenomena. Next are described the technical, legislative, institutional, and economic impediments that limit the ability to assess and monitor the state and condition of its wetlands. This appendix also provides a conceptual information diffusion model that attempts to explain the issues that restrict the diffusion of wetland information. It concludes with a summary with recommendations.

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