Human disturbances and invasive plants can alter natural wetland functions. Hydrological changes, such as increased storm water from upstream development or dewatering by drainage ditches and tiles, affect wetland water quality and quantity and often increase pollutant levels. Wetland size, hydrology, and biological composition may change as a result. Disturbances near or within wetlands create susceptibility to the colonization of invasive plant species, which often dominate plant communities. The National Park Service has documented over 1,500 wetlands at Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Non-native invasive plant species and pollution are identified as the major management issues for the park. The monitoring protocol in development will combine well-established Ohio EPA protocols (Mack 2004) with hydrological and chemical monitoring to document the condition of a subset of wetlands and to track changes in their quality over time. The protocol also includes a watershed-level analysis to evaluate how land use affects wetland condition in specific watersheds. The monitoring data are designed to support park wetland management decisions and restoration efforts.
Monitoring Questions & Approach
- Document the status, trends, and natural variability of plant community composition parameters (i.e. richness, abundance, tolerance) in selected wetland types.
- Wetlands intensively surveyed using the Vegetation Index of Biotic Integrity (Mack 2004) on a 5-year rotating panel. Panel includes randomly select wetlands, wetlands of management concern and reference wetlands.
- Document the status, trends and natural variability of local and watershed-level environmental variables potentially influencing wetland condition such as water depth, temperature, chemistry and land use.
- Chemistry, habitat, and hydrological data will be collected to evaluate relationships with plant composition. Reference sites sampled annually to track natural trends from year to year.
- Document the status and trends in the relative abundance of invasive species in wetland communities.
- General locations and size of invasive plant populations will be documented in plots and tracked over time.