Degraded Wetlands Inventory

Blackened earth where a wetland used to be.
This wind-tidal flat wetland at Padre Island National Seashore is degraded by an abandoned oil pad and access road constructed from imported fill material. The NPS is working to inventory all degraded wetlands in park units.

NPS Photo/ J. Wagner

The National Park Service is currently working with Colorado State University to develop a Degraded Wetlands Inventory. The purpose of the Degraded Wetlands Inventory project is to develop a comprehensive understanding of the extent of degraded wetlands within parks.


The project approach consists of three levels of intensity and effort, by the CSU team, to achieve specific aims. Level 1 assessments consist of office-based GIS and remote sensing analyses, using existing data and input from park staff, to provide landscape and regional context for identifying parks with sites worthy of more intensive analyses. Level 2 assessments are conducted at individual wetlands within parks and use rapid protocols that incorporate both GIS and field data. Level 3 assessments are intended to provide detailed information on each wetland’s condition and functioning.


Project objectives are to create a regional and servicewide database with the following benefits:

  • An inventory of degraded wetlands within each park unit. The inventory data base will include:
  1. Individual and total areas of degraded wetlands
  2. Wetland classifications and characterizations, descriptions of the types of impacts that have degraded the wetlands, and current hydrologic conditions
  3. Conceptual restoration designs for high priority restoration areas
  4. Estimates of costs to complete compliance and restoration of select wetland areas
  • This information will allow prioritization of wetland restoration opportunities.
  • Knowing the cost will facilitate restoration prioritization.
  • This information will be available to private-sector sources.
  • This information will allow parks to identify restoration opportunities as compensation for park projects that impact wetlands (to maintain regulatory compliance).
  • This information could guide park staffs in defining long-term wetland management goals. Restoring impacted wetlands to natural conditions will increase resiliency, allowing these wetlands to better resist and adapt to the influences from a changing climate and minimize rapid transformations that threaten the loss of key ecosystem functions.

NPS staff surveying degraded wetland with field instrument.
Surveying degraded wetland at Padre Island National Seashore.

NPS Photo/ J. Wagner


The degraded wetlands inventory is designed to create the following products:

  1. Protocol Document: Describes data and methods used to conduct Level 1, 2, and 3 assessments of wetland resources used to identify potential candidates for restoration, including descriptions of appropriate restoration approaches for common types of impacts.
  2. Database: Incorporates results of Level 1, 2, and 3 assessments. Level 1 datasets will include relational databases and geospatial data layers. Level 2 and 3 datasets will include geospatial data (GIS shapefiles, GPS coordinates, etc.) showing locations of degraded wetlands and areas suitable for restoration, including restoration concepts and associated cost estimates.
  3. Restoration Concepts: Narratives describing types of potential improvements in physical and biological characteristics and functions that might result from restoration and general estimates of costs associated with specific types of restoration. Narratives will also include park-specific chapters detailing anticipated project outcomes and benefits from individual restoration projects identified.

Last updated: April 20, 2018


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