Wetland Assessment Alphabet Soup: How to Choose (or not Choose) the Right Assessment Method

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For more than 25 years wetland scientists have been striving to develop scientifically defensible wetland assessment methods that are robust, easily applied, affordable, and provide sufficient discrimination to guide management or regulatory decision making. While each generation of methods attempts to build upon the concepts and techniques developed in the previous generation, the fundamental goal remains to evaluate wetland(s) relative to a gradient of condition ranging from natural and undisturbed to extremely perturbed or altered. The progression from one method to the next is a natural and healthy indication that wetland science continues to advance and society learns. However, each generational transition is often accompanied by discourse about the benefits of various methods/approaches and the need or desirability to alter the assessment approach. Such was the case when the Corps of Engineers shifted from the Wetland Evaluation Technique (WET) to the Hydrogeomorphic Assessment Method (HGM). More recently, similar discussions have arisen around the development and application of Rapid Assessment Methods (RAMs) for wetland condition. The recent release of the Corps/EPA rule that strongly promotes use of condition or functional assessment in mitigation monitoring and performance evaluation (U.S. Army Corps and Engineers and Environmental Protection Agency 2008) has once again intensified debates about the efficacy of various assessment approaches.

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Wetland Science and Practice, v. 26, issue 4, p. 20-24

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