For the past couple of years, we at the Swamp School have noticed an increase in our international student body. Wetland identification and delineation is becoming more important as countries expand their economies and run into complicated water quality and quantity issues. Wetlands play an important part in the overall water management of a given country.
Recently the Swamp School released a new online class entitled, International Wetlands Assessment and Delineation. This class is tailored to meet the needs of the international community and has been put together based upon Ramsar, Wetlands International, USACE and other standards.
One of the principal features of a wetland is the plant community that exists in the wetland. In the United States, we have the benefit of a wetland plant list that is decades in the making. It was originally created by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and has since been updated by the US Army Corps of Engineers.
What many people do not know is how the original list was compiled by the USFWS. In the 1980’s the USFWS was completing the National Wetlands Inventory (NWI). They needed to ground truth some of the areas that were under consideration for refuges and they needed a way to qualify if a site was a wetland. One of the developing criteria was that the site had to have 50% hydrophytes to be a wetland. What was a hydrophyte?
The USFWS sent out a survey to a limited group of USFWS employees and some from academia asking them to categorize common plants found in wetlands in their area based upon the now familiar wetland ratings of obligate (OBL), facultative- wet (FACW), facultative (FAC), facultative-up (FACU) and upland (UPL). Originally, the ratings were based upon a numeric experience estimate. For example, a wetland plant with a rating of FACW would be expected to be found in wetlands 67%-99% of the time. There was no real data collected. Rather, it was more of an opinion survey of qualified professionals and has served us well for nearly 30 years.
To this end, we are conducting a similar survey of wetlands plants found around the world and we need your help. Both by spreading the word about this project and by participating in it. If you can provide plant data for your area, we have the database up and running. We will need scientific name, common name, location information and your rating opinion. We also ask for a reference source that helps verify the habitat of the given plant. Due to the size of the database, we are not asking for any pictures. At least not yet.
If you would like to participate in the project, we have a very simple registration process. Just go to this page and fill out the contact information. We ask for location information of the main area that you will be working in. However, you can submit data from others areas once you are registered. We do not need any USA data as the USACOE does a fine job of keeping up with the US wetland plants. We have had many requests for this data from Canada, New Zealand, India, China, the United Kingdom, Brazil, and South Korea. We need data from all over the world, but these countries are in high demand.
The database is open and accessible to anyone who is registered. The data is processed in real time so you will see continuing updates. If you have a spreadsheet of this data for your area, we do have the ability to upload this into the database. Just let us know if you need to do this and we will be happy to help.
This is an ongoing project and we do not ever expect it to be finalized. The International Wetlands Assessment and Delineation students will be submitting data as part of their class into this project so you will see ongoing updates. We are also hoping to be able to publish national wetland plant guides once we have enough data to share.
Lastly, this project requires a fair amount of database server space and utilization. We want to make the information free to anyone who wants to use it. We have set up a GoFundMe account to help us cover some of the backend computer costs. Even if you are not able to help with the database, please consider helping us by contributing. Any amount if very much appreciated. If there are any philanthropists out there we would love to also add photographs to the database, but the amount of server space for this is enormous and outside what we can self-fund.
Help spread the word!
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