Freshwater Wetland Monitoring and Assessment in Rhode Island


The RI DEM Office of Water Resources, with Clean Water Act grant funding from EPA, and in partnership with the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC), initiated an effort to monitor and assess the ecological condition of freshwater wetlands in RI. Under the Clean Water Act, states are required to report on the condition of all waters of the United States, including wetlands. Working with wetland partners in the state, a plan was developed, which outlines a multi-level approach to wetland monitoring, including short-term and long-term objectives. With continued EPA grant funding, DEM has been working with the Rhode Island Natural History Survey (RINHS) since 2007 to implement the plan and develop the program.

Systematic monitoring and assessment of wetlands is an essential element of the comprehensive water monitoring strategy for the state and serves many purposes: to document the location and extent of wetlands, analyze their condition, and document trends. Knowledge gained from wetland monitoring and assessment is intended to allow managers to more effectively protect wetlands, prioritize restoration projects, and better manage impacts on a watershed scale.

Short-term and Long-term Objectives

As stated in the plan, the goal of wetland monitoring and assessment in Rhode Island is to improve wetland protection and management by understanding the cumulative impacts of human activities on wetland condition. A three-tiered approach to monitoring, advocated by EPA, will be used to address the following long and short-term objectives, identified by DEM and partners:

Short-term Objectives

  • Prioritize wetlands (and adjacent upland habitat) for protection through open space acquisition and other land protection mechanisms.
  • Develop and implement methods for monitoring impacts to wetlands due to water withdrawals.
  • Monitor and assess impacts to wetlands due to loss and degradation of adjacent upland habitats (buffer zones).
  • Monitor location and extent to which invasive species are present and affecting wetland condition.

Long-term Objectives

  • Develop a database of information necessary to evaluate trends in wetland condition.
  • Identify causes and sources of wetland degradation including cumulative impacts to wetlands.
  • Identify program and policy changes needed to improve overall wetland condition statewide.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of wetland management and protection programs with respect to wetland condition.

Further information about wetland monitoring can be found in the RI plan, as well as in the web links below. Rhode Island related wetland monitoring and assessment documents and data are available on the Documents and Data (Under Reconstruction) page.

Related Wetland Monitoring Links: