National Academies Press: OpenBook

Wetlands: Characteristics and Boundaries (1995)

Chapter: FRONT MATTER

Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." National Research Council. 1995. Wetlands: Characteristics and Boundaries. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4766.
×

Wetlands

CHARACTERISTICS AND BOUNDARIES

Committee on Characterization of Wetlands

Water Science and Technology Board

Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology

Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources

National Research Council

NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS
Washington, D.C. 1995

Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." National Research Council. 1995. Wetlands: Characteristics and Boundaries. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4766.
×

NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS
2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W. Washington, DC 20418

NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competencies and with regard for appropriate balance.

This report has been reviewed by a group other than the authors according to procedures approved by a Report Review Committee consisting of members of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine.

Support for this project was provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under Agreement No. CX-821125-01-0 and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service under Agreement No. SCD-68-3475-3-161.

The Director, Grants Administration Division, has approved a deviation from 40 CFR 30.518 of EPA's Assistance Regulations. This approval permits a waiver of EPA's peer review process and submission of the draft final report. The recipient agrees that the following disclaimer will be added to all documents published under this project.

"Although the results described in this document have been funded wholly or in part by the United States Environmental Protection Agency under Assistance Agreement X821125010 to the National Academy of Sciences, it has not been subjected to the Agency's peer and administrative review and therefore may not necessarily reflect the views of the Agency and no official endorsement should be inferred."

Cover art by Raphael Lopez, San Diego, California

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Wetlands: characteristics and boundaries.

p. cm

William M. Lewis, Jr., chair.

Includes bibliographical references and index.

ISBN 0-309-05134-7 (cloth)

1. Wetlands. 2. Wetland ecology. 3. Wetland conservation— Government policy—United States. I. Lewis, William M., 1945-. II. National Research Council (U.S.). Committee on Characterization of Wetlands.

QH87.3W475 1995

333.91'8'0973—dc 20 95-440

Copyright 1995 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

Printed in the United States of America

Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." National Research Council. 1995. Wetlands: Characteristics and Boundaries. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4766.
×

COMMITTEE ON CHARACTERIZATION OF WETLANDS

WILLIAM M. LEWIS, JR., Chair,

University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado

BARBARA BEDFORD,

Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

FRED BOSSELMAN, IIT

Chicago Kent College of Law, Chicago, Illinois

MARK BRINSON,

East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina

PAUL GARRETT,

Federal Highway Administration, Washington, District of Columbia

CONSTANCE HUNT,

The World Wildlife Fund, Washington, District of Columbia

CAROL JOHNSTON,

University of Minnesota, Duluth, Minnesota

DOUGLAS KANE,

University of Alaska, Fairbanks, Alaska

A. MICHAEL MACRANDER,

Shell Oil Company, Houston, Texas

JAMES MCCULLEY,

Environmental Consultants, Inc., Christiana, Delaware

WILLIAM J. MITSCH,

The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio

WILLIAM PATRICK, JR.,

Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

ROGER POST,

Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Fairbanks, Alaska

DON SIEGEL,

Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York

R. WAYNE SKAGGS,

North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina

MARGARET STRAND,

Bayh, Connaughton & Malone, P.C., Washington, District of Columbia

JOY B. ZEDLER,

San Diego State University, San Diego, California

BEST Liaison

EDWIN H. CLARK, II,

Clean Sites, Inc., Alexandria, Virginia

WSTB Liaison

DAVID L. FREYBERG,

Stanford University, Stanford, California

Federal Liaisons

GREGORY E. PECK,

Environmental Protection Agency

MICHAEL A. FRITZ,

Environmental Protection Agency

MICHAEL L. DAVIS,

Department of the Army Corps of Engineers

KAREN KOCHENBACH,

Department of the Army Corps of Engineers

BILLY TEELS,

Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service

MARGE KOLAR,

Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service

MIKE LONG,

Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service

JOHN R. HALL,

Department of Commerce, National Marine Fisheries Service

Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." National Research Council. 1995. Wetlands: Characteristics and Boundaries. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4766.
×

Staff

SHEILA D. DAVID, Study Director,

WSTB

DAVID POLICANSKY, Study Director,

BEST

TANIA L. WILLIAMS, Research Associate,

BEST

GREGORY K. NYCE, Senior Project Assistant,

WSTB

Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." National Research Council. 1995. Wetlands: Characteristics and Boundaries. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4766.
×

WATER SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY BOARD

DAVID L. FREYBERG, Chair,

Stanford University, Stanford, California

BRUCE E. RITTMANN, Vice Chair,

Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois

LINDA M. ABRIOLA,

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan

J. DAN ALLEN,

Chevron USA, Inc., New Orleans, Louisiana

PATRICK BREZONIK,

Water Resources Research Center, St. Paul, Minnesota

WILLIAM M. EICHBAUM,

The World Wildlife Fund, Washington, District of Columbia

WILFORD R. GARDNER,

University of California, Berkeley, California

WILLIAM GRAF,

Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona

THOMAS M. HELLMAN,

Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, New York, New York

CHARLES C. JOHNSON, Jr.,

U.S. Public Health Service, Washington, District of Columbia (Retired)

CAROL A. JOHNSTON,

University of Minnesota, Duluth, Minnesota

WILLIAM M. LEWIS, JR.,

University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado

CAROLYN H. OLSEN,

Brown and Caldwell, Pleasant Hill, California

CHARLES R. O'MELIA,

The John Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland

IGNACIO RODRIGUEZ-ITURBE,

Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas

HENRY J. VAUX, JR.,

University of California, Riverside, California

Staff

STEPHEN D. PARKER, Director

JEANNE AQUILINO, Administrative Specialist

ANGELA BRUBAKER, Senior Project Assistant

SHEILA D. DAVID, Senior Staff Officer

CHRIS ELFRING, Senior Staff Officer

ETAN GUMERMAN, Research Associate

ANITA A. HALL, Administrative Assistant

GARY KRAUSS, Staff Officer

JACQUELINE MACDONALD, Senior Staff Officer

MARY BETH MORRIS, Senior Project Assistant

GREGORY NYCE, Senior Project Assistant

Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." National Research Council. 1995. Wetlands: Characteristics and Boundaries. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4766.
×

BOARD ON ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES AND TOXICOLOGY

PAUL G. PASSER, Chair,

Miami University, Oxford, Ohio

MICHAEL J. BEAN,

Environmental Defense Fund, Washington, District of Columbia

EULA BINGHAM,

University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio

EDWIN H. CLARK II,

Clean Sites, Inc., Alexandria, Virginia

ALLAN H. CONNEY,

Rutgers University, Piscataway, New Jersey

ELLIS COWLING,

North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina

JOHN L. EMMERSON,

Portland, Oregon

ROBERT C. FORNEY,

Unionville, Pennsylvania

ROBERT A. FROSCH,

Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

KAI LEE,

Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts

JANE LUBCHENCO,

Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon

GORDON ORIANS,

University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

FRANK L. PARKER,

Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee

GEOFFREY PLACE,

Hilton Head, South Carolina

DAVID P. RALL,

Washington, District of Columbia

LESLIE A. REAL,

Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana

KRISTIN SHRADER-FRECHETTE,

University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida

BURTON H. SINGER,

Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey

MARGARET STRAND,

Bayh, Connaughton & Malone, P.C., Washington, District of Columbia

GERALD VAN BELLE,

University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

BAILUS WALKER, JR.,

Howard University, Washington, District of Columbia

Staff

JAMES J. REISA, Director

DAVID J. POLICANSKY, Associate Director and Program Director for Natural Resources and Applied Ecology

KULBIR BAKSHI, Program Director for Committee on Toxicology

CAROL MACZKA, Program Director for Human Toxicology and Risk Assessment

LEE R. PAULSON, Program Director for Information Systems and Statistics

RAYMOND A. WASSEL, Program Director for Environmental Sciences and Engineering

Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." National Research Council. 1995. Wetlands: Characteristics and Boundaries. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4766.
×

COMMISSION ON GEOSCIENCES, ENVIRONMENT, AND RESOURCES

M. GORDON WOLMAN, Chairman,

The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland

PATRICK R. ATKINS,

Aluminum Company of America, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

EDITH BROWN WEISS,

Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, District of Columbia

JAMES P. BRUCE,

Canadian Climate Program Board, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

WILLIAM L. FISHER,

University of Texas, Austin, Texas

EDWARD A. FRIEMAN,

Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California

GEORGE M. HORNBERGER,

University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia

W. BARCLAY KAMB,

California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California

PERRY L. MCCARTY,

Stanford University, California

S. GEORGE PHILANDER,

Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey

RAYMOND A. PRICE,

Queen's University at Kingston, Ontario, Canada

THOMAS A. SCHELLING,

University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland

ELLEN SILBERGELD,

Environmental Defense Fund, Washington, District of Columbia

STEVEN M. STANLEY,

The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland

VICTORIA J. TSCHINKEL,

Landers and Parsons, Tallahassee, Florida

Staff

STEPHEN RATTIEN, Executive Director

STEPHEN D. PARKER, Associate Executive Director

MORGAN GOPNIK, Assistant Executive Director

JAMES MALLORY, Administrative Officer

SANDI FITZPATRICK, Administrative Associate

Page viii Cite
Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." National Research Council. 1995. Wetlands: Characteristics and Boundaries. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4766.
×

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Bruce Alberts is president of the National Academy of Sciences.

The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Harold Liebowitz is president of the National Academy of Engineering.

The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Kenneth I. Shine is president of the Institute of Medicine.

The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy's purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Bruce Alberts and Dr. Harold Liebowitz are chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council.

Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." National Research Council. 1995. Wetlands: Characteristics and Boundaries. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4766.
×

Acknowledgments

Many individuals assisted the committee in its task by participating in committee meetings, helping to plan field trips, and providing background information. The committee is especially thankful for the generous assistance provided by Mike Fritz, EPA; Mike Long, FWS; Billy Teels, NRCS; and Russell Theriot and Karen Kochenbach of USACE. The committee received valuable advice and assistance from Greg Peck, EPA; Marge Kohlar, FWS; and Mike Davis, USACE.

Field trips held in conjunction with committee meetings helped the committee better understand the problems of wetlands delineation. We would like to express our appreciation to the following people who assisted the committee and NRC staff during these field trips.

Kent Island, Maryland

Leander Brown, USACE

Woody Francis, USACE

Alex Dolgos, USACE

Tom Filip, USACE

Charlie Rhodes, Jr., EPA

Norman Melvin, NRCS

Vicksburg, Mississippi

James Gosselink, Louisiana State University

Randy Pearson, Space Remote Sensing Center, Stennis Space Center, MS

Larry Harper, USACE

Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." National Research Council. 1995. Wetlands: Characteristics and Boundaries. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4766.
×

David Lofton, USACE

Harvey Huffstatler, USACE

Tom Welborn, EPA

David Jones, NRCS

Raymond Callahan, NRCS

David Pettry, Mississippi State University

Sedona, Arizona

Kevin Martin, Soil and Environmental Consultants, Inc., Raleigh, NC

Robert Pierce, Wetlands Science Applications, Inc., Poolesville, MD

Duncan Patten, University of Arizona

Tom Yocum, EPA

Wendy Melgin, EPA

Kathy Kunz, USACE

Fred Weinman, EPA

Mary Butterwick, EPA

David Cooper, Colorado State University

Marie Sullivan, FWS

Ft. Myers, Florida

Maurice Mausbach, NRCS

Kevin Reush, consultant, Lakeland, FL

Kevin Erwin, consultant, Ft. Myers, FL

Robin Lewis, Lewis Environmental Services, Tampa, FL

Public Session in Ft Myers:

Jim Shepard, National Council of the Paper Industry for Air and Stream Improvement

Susan Asmus, National Association of Home Builders

Jamestown, North Dakota

Ned Euliss, FWS

Porter Reed, FWS

Arnold van der Valk, Iowa State University

Dan Smith, USACE

Lewis Cowardin, FWS

Jimmie Richardson, North Dakota State University

Harold Kantrud, FWS

Public session in Jamestown:

Don Parrish, American Farm Bureau

Don Etler, Iowa Drainage District Association

Vic Legler, Landowners Association of North Dakota

Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." National Research Council. 1995. Wetlands: Characteristics and Boundaries. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4766.
×

Gerald Eid, North Dakota Home Builders Association

Kenneth Dierks, Lanley and McDonald Consultants, Virginia Beach, VA

Greg Larson, Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources

Jay Leitch, North Dakota State University

Others

Gary Jellick, Greenhorne & O'Mara, Inc.

Ralph Tiner, FWS

Kim Santos, FWS

Dennis Tressel, NRCS

Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." National Research Council. 1995. Wetlands: Characteristics and Boundaries. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4766.
×
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Page xiii Cite
Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." National Research Council. 1995. Wetlands: Characteristics and Boundaries. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4766.
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Preface

Principles for federal regulation of wetlands have been fundamentally challenged several times over the past 20 years. One legacy of these challenges has been a reduction in the credibility of all regulatory practice related to wetlands. For this reason, the U.S. Congress requested that the Environmental Protection Agency ask the National Research Council (NRC) to create a committee that would study the scientific basis for characterization of wetlands. This committee was formed in 1993 through the NRC's Water Science and Technology Board and its Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology. The committee was asked to review and evaluate the consequences of alternative methods for wetland delineation and to summarize the scientific understanding of wetland functions. Specifically mentioned in the committee's charge are the issues of wetland definition, the structure and functioning of wetlands, and regional differences among wetlands. Members of the committee were drawn from a broad range of expertise, regional perspectives, and professional experience.

After its first meeting in Washington, D.C., the committee met in eastern Maryland, the lower Mississippi River valley, Arizona, southwest Florida, and the prairie pothole region of North Dakota. At each of these locations, the committee spent some of its time on field investigations organized under the direction of federal agency personnel and private consultants familiar with regional problems of delineation. This field experience assisted the committee members in their discussion of regional issues. The meetings also included two special sessions for public commentary (in Florida and in North Dakota) and presentations by nongovernment specialists in delineation.

The NRC committee has reached broad consensus on the issues related to its

Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." National Research Council. 1995. Wetlands: Characteristics and Boundaries. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4766.
×

charge. In this report, the committee presents a reference definition of wetlands that sets the stage for a fresh look at existing regulatory definitions and for reconsideration of the confusion surrounding parameters, criteria, and indicators. In addition, the committee offers an overview of wetland functions as they relate to the protection of wetlands. Finally, the committee provides many recommendations and conclusions related to criteria and indicators. Although these recommendations and conclusions do not in themselves constitute a new delineation manual, they specify the essential framework and principles around which a new universal federal manual can be prepared by federal agency personnel. Many of the conclusions and recommendations underscore the committee's confidence in the fundamental soundness of current regulatory practice for characterizing and delineating wetlands. Changes that have been suggested by the committee typically involve refinements of practice rather than drastic change.

The committee's report will be scrutinized carefully for bias favoring or opposing the protection of wetlands. The committee members hold a range of personal viewpoints on the degree of rigor with which wetlands should be protected and on the uniformity with which protection should extend across wetlands, but the committee leaves these matters for resolution through law and administrative policy. The committee's task has been to analyze present regulatory practice in relation to wetland delineation and to recommend changes that might bolster the objectivity and scientific validity of wetland delineation and identification. In general, the committee has been impressed with the professionalism and scientific credibility that make up the foundation of federal expertise in characterization and delineation of wetlands. This foundation, when combined with a federal commitment to the use of scientific principles applied with regional realism, should steadily improve public confidence in the national system for characterization of wetlands.

The Committee on wetlands Characterization has placed extraordinary demands on members of the NRC staff. The rapid pace of work, extensive logistical arrangements, and coordination of two NRC boards required experience and great dedication from the staff. The committee is indebted particularly to Sheila David, David Policansky, Tania Williams, and Greg Nyce of the National Research Council, and to David Greene of the University of Colorado's Center for Limnology, for extensive staff work on this project. In addition, the committee greatly appreciates the many briefings and assistance with field trips provided by the staff of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and others.

William M. Lewis, Jr., Chairman

Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." National Research Council. 1995. Wetlands: Characteristics and Boundaries. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4766.
×
Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." National Research Council. 1995. Wetlands: Characteristics and Boundaries. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4766.
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Wetland Delineation: Motivation and Procedure

 

66

   

Federal Agency Manuals Before 1989

 

70

   

Comparing the Federal Manuals

 

74

5

 

WETLAND CHARACTERIZATION: WATER, SUBSTRATE, AND BIOTA

 

90

   

Introduction

 

90

   

Hydrology

 

90

   

Soils

 

109

   

Vegetation

 

121

   

Other Indicators of the Substrate and Biological Criteria

 

136

   

Combining the Factors

 

137

   

Recommendations

 

144

6

 

ESPECIALLY CONTROVERSIAL WETLANDS

 

149

   

Introduction

 

149

   

Permafrost Wetlands

 

149

   

Riparian Ecosystems

 

152

   

Isolated Wetlands and Headwaters

 

155

   

Especially Shallow or Intermittently Flooded Wetlands

 

156

   

Agricultural Wetlands

 

158

   

Sites Altered for Nonagricultural Purposes

 

162

   

Transitional Zones

 

166

   

Recommendations

 

166

7

 

REGIONALIZATION

 

168

   

Introduction

 

168

   

Hierarchy of Regional Variation

 

169

   

Regionalization Schemes

 

174

   

Current Approaches

 

179

   

Advantages and Disadvantages of Regionalization

 

185

   

Research to Support Regionalization

 

186

   

Implementation of Regionalization

 

187

   

Recommendations

 

188

8

 

MAPS, IMAGES, AND MODELING IN THE ASSESSMENT OF WETLANDS

 

190

   

Introduction

 

190

   

Aerial Photography and Satellite Imaging

 

190

   

Wetland Delineation Under the Food Security Act

 

192

   

NWI Mapping

 

195

   

Geographic Information Systems

 

199

   

Hydrologic Modeling

 

201

   

Quantitative Analysis of Boundaries

 

204

   

Recommendations

 

206

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Wetlands

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"Wetlands" has become a hot word in the current environmental debate. But what does it signify? In 1991, proposed changes in the legal definities of wetlands stirred controversy and focused attention on the scientific and economic aspects of their management.

This volume explores how to define wetlands. The committee--whose members were drawn from academia, government, business, and the environmental community--builds a rational, scientific basis for delineating wetlands in the landscape and offers recommendations for further action.

Wetlands also discusses the diverse hydrological and ecological functions of wetlands, and makes recommendations concerning so-called controversial areas such as permafrost wetlands, riparian ecosystems, irregularly flooded sites, and agricultural wetlands. It presents criteria for identifying wetlands and explores the problems of applying those criteria when there are seasonal changes in water levels.

This comprehensive and practical volume will be of interest to environmental scientists and advocates, hydrologists, policymakers, regulators, faculty, researchers, and students of environmental studies.

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