Wetland Ecological Integrity

Wetland monitoring in Rocky Mountain National Park
Wetland monitoring in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Importance/Issues

Wetlands are important components of nearly all Rocky Mountain Network watersheds and provide many valuable ecological and socioeconomic functions. For example, relative to their area, wetlands support a disproportionate amount of the biodiversity in each Rocky Mountain Network park. Wetland vegetation is also an excellent indicator of changes in groundwater levels and sediment dynamics. However, wetlands are vulnerable to stressors functioning at the site and landscape scales, and many Rocky Mountain Network wetlands are likely in a degraded condition (e.g., species assemblages and dynamics may not be within a normal range of variability due to hydrologic modifications such as changes in groundwater levels or stream diversions, fill, overgrazing by native ungulates, historical grazing by domestic livestock, atmospheric deposition, and invasion by exotic taxa).

Preliminary Monitoring Objectives

  • Determine long-term status and trend in spatial extent of wetland by key type within each park.
  • Monitor the status and trend in vegetation assemblages at the park scale using multimetric indices.
  • Quantify the seasonal, annual, and/or decadal water-table depth and dynamics and its statistical relationship with a multimetric vegetation index of biotic integrity at a subset of wetland sites.
  • Determine the proportion and long-term trend in wetland areas that meet regulatory criteria for water and sediment chemistry (nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur) and/or derived reference levels.
  • Determine the extent, temporal dynamics, and relative importance of impacts from ungulate herbivory, beaver presence/absence, and invasive species at a subset of wetland sites and/or at the park scale.
  • Determine the status and trend in select measures (e.g., area, fragmentation, connectivity) of the meso- (the buffer zone around a given wetland or its immediate drainage catchment) and landscape-scale context, composition, and structure of wetland systems.

Potential Measures

  • Plant species composition, abundance, frequency and cover
  • Water table depth
  • Presence/absence of invasive plant taxa
  • Water chemistry
  • Presence/absence of beaver sign
  • Presence/absence of elk herbivory

Protocol Status

The Rocky Mountain Network Wetlands protocol has been peer-reviewed and published in 2015 (Narrative and SOP). We developed the protocol in collaboration with Dr. David Cooper and others at Colorado State University. We monitor wetlands annually using this protocol in Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, Glacier National Park, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, and Rocky Mountain National Park. To meet specific information needs at Glacier National Park, we adapted the protocol to more effectively capture hydrologic changes in the park’s alpine wetlands.

Parks This Protocol is Monitored At

Vital Signs This Protocol Monitors

  • Focal Species (beaver and elk)
  • Ground Water Dynamics
  • Invasive/Exotic Plants
  • Surface Water Dynamics
  • Water Chemistry
  • Wetland Communities

Publications & Reports

Briefs

Source: Data Store Saved Search 3498. To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

Monitoring Protocol

Source: Data Store Saved Search 1950. To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

Monitoring Reports

Source: Data Store Saved Search 2629. To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

Last updated: September 27, 2018