Wetlands photo

What are wetlands?

  • Wetlands are transition areas between dry land and open waters; however, they are not always wet.
  • Usually wetlands contain plant-life adapted to survive in water-saturated soils, normally without oxygen (anaerobic).
  • Some of the plants found in wetlands include duckweed, water lilies, cattails, pondweed, reeds, sedges and bulrushes.
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Wetlands photo

Why is it important to preserve wetlands?

  • Wetlands can provide habitat for fish and wildlife and recreation areas for people to hunt, fish and enjoy watching nature. Wetlands store floodwaters and maintain surface water flow during dry periods. Wetlands protect and improve water quality.

Missouri has eight types of natural wetlands: swamps, shrub swamps, forested wetlands, marshes, wet meadows, fens and seeps, pond and lake borders and stream banks.

Restoring vs. Preserving Wetlands

Wetlands are impacted during construction of highways, roads, businesses and homes. The Federal Water Pollution Control Act, Title IV Permits and Licenses, Section 401 and Section 404 empower the state and federal government to regulate permit applicants that may discharge, dredge or place fill material into navigable waters and adjacent wetlands.  Within the permit process the federal government or the state may require compensation, replacement or restoration to mitigate wetland impacts.  In theory wetland restoration may help to ensure that there is no net loss of wetlands.  However, a restored wetland is never exactly the same as the drained or filled wetland.  First, soil and water conditions will vary between wetlands and restored wetland functions may take many years before they can mimic a natural wetland.  With different soil and water conditions, the mix of plants and animals also varies.  In addition, the public may have accessibility to one wetland but not the other.  Consequently, the functions and values of a restored wetland may vary from the drained or filled wetland.

The Value of Wetlands

Every piece of wetlands provides value through social and environmental benefits (such as flood control, water quality improvements and wildlife habitat) in addition to the property’s economic value.  The property’s market value is recognized by the owner.  The social benefits are recognized by the public as well as the private owner.

Current Projects:

National Wetland Condition Assessment 2016

Missouri Wetland Program Plan

Missouri Wetlands Monitoring and Assessment: This project aims to develop a physical wetlands monitoring pilot program in partnership with the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering of the University of Missouri.

The Water Resources Center is installing instruments at diverse sites across the state to record data by satellite telemetry. Water levels and meteorological data is collected remotely to help increase the knowledge and understanding of Missouri wetland systems. University staff conduct chemical and microbiological studies at the selected sites to better understand the relationship between water levels and soil conditions. This project began in April 2008 and will conclude in April 2011. Monitoring equipment will continue to stream data indefinitely. See monitoring site data links posted below images.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 7,  the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the University of Missouri are funding this project.

Photo of wetland monitoring
Photo of wetland use
Photo of wetland monitoring

Wetland Monitoring Sites

Bee Hollow Conservation Area Data Site Info Map Photos
Eagle Bluffs Data Site Info Map Photos
Lincoln University Carver Farm Data Site Info Map Photos
Little Bean Marsh Conservation Area Data Site Info Map Photos
Pershing State Park Data Site Info Map Photos
Van Meter State Park Data Site Info Map Photos

Completed Projects:

Wetland Nutrient Monitoring and Biologically Based Nutrient Enrichment Assessment: This project aims to demonstrate a wetlands nutrient monitoring program in Missouri and develop biologically based nutrient enrichment assessment tools that can then be used to assess the health of wetland ecosystems. Selected wetland monitoring sites will be monitored to determine seasonal changes and spatial distributions of nutrients in wetland soils. The results of this project will help to improve Missouri’s wetland monitoring, water quality decision making, and help to protect and restore biological conditions in wetlands. The Water Resources Center and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering of the University of Missouri will continue their partnership, and use this project to complement and enhance efforts of the Missouri Wetlands Monitoring and Assessment project. This project began in November 2008 and will conclude in September 2011. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 7, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, and the University of Missouri are funding this project.

Magazine Cover Image
Research Magazine - University of Missouri College of Engineering
Microbe plays major role in wetland research.

National Wetland Condition Assessment (NWCA)

The NWCA is one in a series of statistically-valid National Aquatic Resource Surveys (NARS) conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) to provide the public with a comprehensive assessment of the condition of the Nation’s waters. In addition to wetlands the NARS surveys coastal waters, lakes, and flowing waters in a revolving sequence.

USEPA will collaborate with state, tribal, federal, and other partners to implement the NWCA to meet three goals:

  1.  Produce a report that describes the ecological condition of the Nation’s wetlands.
  2.  Assist states and tribes in the implementation of wetland monitoring and assessment programs that guide policy development and aid project decision-making.
  3. Advance the science of wetlands monitoring and assessment to support management needs.

November 2011 - EPA Region 7 NWCA Meeting Powerpoint Presentation (154MB) *This is a large document please be patient.

Benefit Transfer in the Field: Measuring the Benefits of Heterogeneous Wetlands using Contingent Valuation and Ecological Field Appraisals.  Wetlands have functional values that may extend beyond traditional real estate values. This paper uses contingent valuation and ecological field assessments to place heterogeneous values on heterogeneous wetlands. Wetland functions evaluated are water quality, habitat, recreation, storing floodwaters and erosion abatement. The model used incorporates the public value of wetland functions and adds that value to the common local appraisal cost. We use a “percentage willingness-to-pay” value elicitation question in which respondents are asked about the percentage amount that the state government should pay over and above market value to purchase and preserve a wetland function. These values are then mapped into an ecological matrix to value the wetland as a whole. We show how these values can be applied in the field.

Department of Economics Working Paper (Feb. 2010)

Wetland Potential Screening Tool
The Wetland Potential Screening Tool (WPST) is a Geographic Information System (GIS) based tool that identifies areas at a landscape scale with the greatest potential for the restoration or creation of sustainable wetlands. The WPST was developed using the ModelBuilder application of the ArcGIS software distributed by the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI), and is applied using the same software. The WPST calculates wetland potential scores by combining data from ten commonly available geographic datasets. By allowing the user to assign values to data parameters in the Weighted Overlay Tables that determine the results, the WPST can be adapted to suit the specific region, terrain type, and ecology to which it is to be applied. Three versions of the WPST have been developed to meet the specific goals of improving water quality, providing habitat for wetland species, and evaluating land for enrollment in the Wetland Reserve Program. Below are samples of results for two of the study areas examined during the project, and an example of a portion of a Weighted Overlay Table containing user assigned values.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 7, provided funding for this grant. The Wetland Potential Screening Grant was completed in July 2008. Final Report

Urban Wetlands Grant: The East Fork Little Blue River and the Rock Creek watersheds were chosen to assess the impact of urbanization to wetlands. Both study areas were chosen due to their population growth, presence of wetlands on the National Wetland Inventory (NWI), and access to wetlands on public lands. The NWI was used as baseline data by which comparisons were made from color infrared aerial photography that was acquired in 2002. Photographic interpretations were performed to determine the amount of wetlands that still exist, and land use conversions of those that have been eliminated.

Water quality was collected on a quarterly basis in both watersheds at sites selected using a stratified random sampling design. Parameters chosen for analyses were: total phosphorous, pH, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, nitrate, nitrite, ammonia nitrate, and temperature. Analysis was conducted using a Hach DR 2000 and EPA approved methods.

Soil was analyzed for copper, lead, zinc, and nickel at each wetland site in the spring of 2002.

A plant survey was also conducted at the sites chosen for water quality sampling. Throughout the term of the project, plants were identified within a 1.5 meter plot at each site.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 7, made funding for the Urban Wetlands Grant possible. The complete project is found here. Final Report 1.07 MB

Wetland Image Analysis Grant: The goal of this study is to develop a "cook-book" for using remote sensing (satellite imagery, aerial photography) to identify specific types of wetlands. Study sites are located on public lands such as the Missouri Department of Conservation refuge areas, Department of Natural Resources state parks, or Fish and Wildlife Service refuges. Cooperation with these agencies is essential for the success of this project. These areas are all located in close proximity to the Missouri River. Other state and local agencies and wetland professionals who are interested in a cost-effective method of collecting large-scale wetland data may use the results of this study. Results may also be used in the future for a comprehensive wetland inventory for Missouri. This was completed in July 2002. Final Report -- Using Remote Sensing to Identify Wetlands - Presentation 5.42 MB

Assessment of Section 404 Wetland Mitigation Sites in Missouri: Assessment of specific wetland mitigation sites representative of Section 404 wetland mitigation efforts in Missouri was conducted. Existing conditions of the sample sites were compared to those intended as described in the individual Section 404 Wetland Mitigation Plans. Findings of the assessment will contribute to the effectiveness of compensatory mitigation for wetlands. Final Report 2.9 MB

Wetland Hydrology Grant: The purpose of this study is to develop and refine methodology for determining the flooding regimes of Missouri riparian wetlands. The study objectives are to correlate the area inundated by a flood of a given magnitude and the boundaries of a wetland, estimate the frequency a wetland is inundated, estimate the duration that a wetland is inundated and refine methodology to be applied on a regional or watershed basis. This was completed in July 2001. Final Report 2.31 MB

Water Quality Certification

401 Water Quality Certification