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Jen Chutz, DCI West Biological Consulting Linda Vance, Montana Natural Heritage Program Montana Wetland Council March 26, 2014.

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Presentation on theme: "Jen Chutz, DCI West Biological Consulting Linda Vance, Montana Natural Heritage Program Montana Wetland Council March 26, 2014."— Presentation transcript:

1 Jen Chutz, DCI West Biological Consulting Linda Vance, Montana Natural Heritage Program Montana Wetland Council March 26, 2014

2 Background EPA-funded project designed to… Document extent of Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems (GDEs) Especially fens, focusing on Western Montana Enhance MTNHP’s wetland reference network Improve recognition of patterns in imagery to assist in USFWS National Wetland Inventory (NWI) mapping

3 So how do you find GDEs? Expert knowledge Many of the largest and richest fens have been identified and surveyed, and are known to botanists and land managers, or described in publications Trial and error In theory, in the course of enough wetland surveys, including getting to and from target wetlands, you’ll encounter GDEs National Wetland Inventory (NWI) mapping and high- resolution imagery Our preferred approach!

4 : 1,726 USGS 24K Quads Mapped 2,178,028 Acres Wetlands: 1,655,061 Acres Riparian: 522,967 Acres

5 Using the NWI to find GDEs/Fens Because NWI maps are based on aerial imagery, key indicators like the presence of peat aren’t detectable However, GDEs generally… Have no inlet Often have no outlet Have a fairly distinct “signature” visible to the human eye because they are often saturated through the growing season

6 Using the NWI to find GDEs/Fens Although GDEs found from floodplains to alpine areas in MT… GDEs generally are found… At low points in the landscape OR… Near slopes where groundwater intercepts surface Associated with glacial till/outwash, alluvial fans/basins, floodplains Over limestone deposits

7 Used NWI mapping in ArcGIS to identify ALL: Palustrine Emergent wetlands AND… Palustrine Shrub Scrub wetlands WITH… Saturated water regimes PEMB and PSSB North of Whitefish, MT


9 Field surveys Rapid assessments (Level 2) ~ 2 hours Intensive assessments (Level 3) Up to 8 hours

10 Field surveys Set up 0.5 hectare Assessment Area (AA) Best represents site Diversity & proportions Usually 40m circle Site info: General wetland description Landscape setting Physical patch types AA drawing Photos & GPS points Classification of AA Ecological Systems of MT Hydrogeomorphic (HGM) class Cowardin classification

11 Field surveys Hydrologic inputs/outlets If any Major vegetation zones Structure and species composition Anthropogenic disturbance metrics: Distance to, degree of, cause of disturbance/changes to… Landscape Vegetation GDEs sustained by inputs from local landscape GDEs are stable, but not resilient Soil Hydrology

12 Soil surveys Min. 2 soil pits, each in different vegetation & hydrology, if possible Min. 60 cm or until mineral soil Soil Texture - Organic vs. Mineral Peat, mucky peat, muck Ribbon test…Sand  Loam  Clay Loam  Clay Other hydric soil indicators Redox concentrations and depletions (Fe & Mn) Hydrogen Sulfide Soil Color – Munsell Soil Color Chart

13 Level 3: Intensive assessments Within AA, we lay out ten 10x10m modules Within 4 selected modules, record… Vegetation species… Presence Stratum % canopy cover Ground Cover… Type Deep water, gravel, litter, woody debris, etc… % cover Depth

14 AA & Plot Placement

15 GDEs vs Fens Not all GDEs are fens, and not all fens are GDEs Fens are defined as having an organic layer with ≥40cm of peat GDEs rely on groundwater for the majority of their water input But, we encountered many flow- through fens, some distinct channels Must “dig” for indicators of groundwater dependency Soil, pH, landscape, etc…

16 GDE 131 GDE 131, our earlier example, was classified as a wet meadow rather than a fen, although it was a close call. Soil pits had from cm of peat, some with mucky peat underneath, some with a silty loam Vegetation cover was primarily Carex utriculata, C. atherodes, and Calamagrostis canadensis




20 Project summary In total from 2012 & 2013, we completed intensive surveys of… 131 GDEs 109 fens 19 wet meadows 3 emergent marshes Identified 350 species in the Assessment Areas of these GDEs Fens AA vascular plant species richness varied widely From 1 to 44 species identified per fen Mean of 16.4 species

21 Project summary Nativity was high: 77 of the fens had no observed exotic species Only one –in Glacier National Park– had more than 4 For fens, Mean Floristic Quality Index = 58 This was adjusted for cover weight and native species Very near the value of 60.6 MTNHP found for reference- standard fens in an earlier study

22 Next steps Species of Concern (SOC) plant data will be entered into MTNHP databases once all IDs are confirmed Final report on project will be available from MTNHP by late April Database and GIS available on request from MTNHP Contact: Linda Vance Data forms and protocol are available on MTNHP’s website

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