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Delaware Participates in the National Wetland Condition Assessment

Written on: September 7th, 2016 in Wetland Assessments

Did you know that 50% of wetlands in our coastal plains ecoregion are in good condition?  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) organized the National Wetland Condition Assessment (NWCA) in 2011 to get these data, and now our Program (Wetland Monitoring & Assessment Program) is again helping to assess more of Delaware’s wetlands to contribute to the 2016 NWCA.

2011 National Wetland Condition Assessment site

2011 National Wetland Condition Assessment site

2011 National Wetland Condition Assessment In Brief:

Five years ago, the EPA conducted a wetland assessment to look at the changing conditions and health of the nation’s wetlands. This study broke the continent into four separate ecoregions, with Delaware falling into the coastal plains ecoregion. The ecoregion includes the Mississippi Delta and extends up to Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

For all wetland types in the coastal plains region, 50% of the estimated wetland area is in good condition; 21% is in fair condition and 29% is in poor condition based on the vegetation index used.

In our coastal plains ecoregion, vegetation removal, ditching, and surface hardening were the stressors that caused the most problems for coastal wetlands.

A soil core was taken to examine the soil horizons at Burton’s Island near Rehoboth Beach

A soil core was taken to examine the soil horizons at Burton’s Island near Rehoboth Beach

During the 2011 NWCA field season a total of 513 randomly selected sites were sampled from across the U.S., 17 from Delaware, representing 30,893,305 acres nationally.  Wetlands were surveyed by using an army of field crews stationed across the nation.  We were lucky enough to be one of them.

All in all, 48% of U.S. wetlands were found to be in good condition; 32% is in poor condition and the remaining 20% is in fair condition.

2016 Field Work:

This summer we are at it again, collecting wetland data for the EPA about wetland health from 12 sites across Delaware.  Some of the sites were repeats from 2011, and some of them were new.

Each site visit involved 4 people from our program, and a soil scientist from National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) geared up to go out and look at soil composition, plant communities, water quality, and buffer stressors.  For a more detailed description of each parameter we looked at, please visit the 2011 Technical Report.  Look for a report on the 2016 data from the EPA in the future!

Sometimes sites are not easily accessible. The field crew gears up to canoe to a hard to reach site.

Sometimes sites are not easily accessible. The field crew gears up to canoe to a hard to reach site.

Prime Hook Then and Now: A Restoration Story

Written on: September 7th, 2016 in Wetland Restorations

*Updated 9/12/16 A hot topic for scientists and residents of Milton as of late, has been the Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge Marsh Restoration project. This Refuge had multiple breaches in its freshwater impoundments where saltwater from the Delaware Bay cut its way through the dunes. The breaches caused significant flooding; massive vegetation die offs, […]


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Confessions of a Seasonal: A Learning Experience

Written on: September 5th, 2016 in Wetland Assessments

by Tess Strayer This summer has truly been a summer for the books. I have not only garnered knowledge and skills for my future career but I have also learned a lot of practical life lessons. I was recently asked, what was one thing you have done on this job that you hadn’t expected to […]


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Trash or Treasures: Wetland Edition

Written on: August 19th, 2016 in Wetland Assessments

People have been creators of some amazing inventions throughout history: wheels, cars, electricity, plastics and more! But what happens to these creations when they have outlived their use or are no longer wanted? You’re probably guessing that they end up in places like the dump, or antique stores or junk yards. But, would you believe […]


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Confessions of a Seasonal: Wetland Work is Tough

Written on: August 4th, 2016 in Wetland Assessments

by Tess Strayer Growing up, I spent the majority of my childhood outdoors with friends, family, and the occasional wild animal. Whether it was hiking, biking, fishing or playing we were constantly exploring, thus you would think my outdoor experience would help better prepare me for field work this summer.  When I accepted an internship […]


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Oyster Recycling is Here to Stay

Written on: May 30th, 2016 in Living Shorelines

Did you know that empty oyster shells can be reused for wetland restoration projects and that there are two oyster shell recycling programs in Delaware? One is run by the Center for the Inland Bays in Rehoboth Beach and the other is by the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary in Wilmington. Oysters have hard shells […]


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May is American Wetlands Month

Written on: May 30th, 2016 in Outreach

American Wetlands Month was established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1991 as a way to bring federal, state, and local organizations together to highlight the importance of wetlands to the environment, the economy, and the nation’s citizens. “American Wetlands Month is a great time to discover the importance of wetlands and the significant […]


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It’s Horseshoe Crab Counting Season

Written on: May 30th, 2016 in Wetland Animals

Guest writer: Maggie Pletta, DNERR The Delaware Bay is home to the largest population of horseshoe crabs in the world, which is just one of the many reasons the Delaware Bay is so special. The horseshoe crab has been around since before the dinosaurs and is an important animal to the ecosystem and to humans. Their […]


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Peepers, Marbles, and Tigers, Oh My!

Written on: March 14th, 2016 in Wetland Animals

Thanks to all that extra water lying around, all sorts of amphibians start to come alive this time of year in Delaware. Frogs and salamanders use these seasonal pools of water, or wetlands, to breed and can only do so because predatory fish cannot survive the lack of permanent water. They then use the surrounding […]


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Mispillion Watershed Health

Written on: March 14th, 2016 in Wetland Assessments

Updated: 10/28/2016, Grading scale was revised. In the summer of 2012, DNREC’s Wetland Monitoring & Assessment Program rated the health of wetlands in the Mispillion and Cedar Creek River Watershed’s tidal and non-tidal flat and riverine wetlands. The goal of this project was to summarize recent gains and losses in wetland acreage, assess the condition, […]


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