Surveying Wetlands

NDNH uses a variety of standardized protocols to survey wetlands in Nevada to address different project objectives. These protocols are suitable for other wetland surveyors in the state that have some experience identifying wetland plants, recognizing hydric soils, and/or taking basic hydrology measurements. Portions of the protocol or even a photo and GPS coordinate of wetlands are also helpful! If you have wetland data to share or need access to some of NDNH’s wetland data, please contact us.

Scientists from TNC and NDNH survey a wetland in Carson Valley. Photo courtesy of Kristin Szabo.
Scientists from TNC and NDNH survey a wetland in Carson Valley. Photo courtesy of Kristin Szabo.

WetBar - WetBar is a GIS-based level 1 tool created by Dr. Ken McGwire at the Desert Research Institute. WetBar integrates satellite imagery with web-based data (such as nearby surface and groundwater levels, drought index, soils, and more) to analyze wetland condition and trends. It can be used to quickly characterize a wetland and gather information on land ownership, soils, and seasonality before conducting a level 2 field visit.  WetBar can be downloaded for use in ArcMap and a web application is in development.

NVRAM The Nevada Rapid Assessment Method was developed by the Nature Conservancy as a standardized level 2 protocol for surveying marshes, riparian areas, and other large wetlands. The draft document contains a description of the protocol and field sheets. Surveys take a team of two experienced wetland surveyors about two hours to collect data on hydrology, soils, plants, and other site characteristics. The protocol was field tested and revised in 2024.

GDE The Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems field survey protocol is a standard Forest Service protocol for groundwater-fed wetlands. Level 1 (rapid assessment) and level 2 (more comprehensive assessment) protocols are available, depending on project objectives. The NDNH wetland program uses the GDE protocol for springs, fens, and other small GDEs.

Wetland Survey Databases

It is essential to not just collect data on wetlands but also to store it in a secure and accessible manner. SpringsOnline and Biotics are two databases we use at NDNH to maintain wetland information for ourselves and other users.

Biotics - Biotics is a spatial database for biodiversity and ecosystem data managed by NatureServe and contributed to by the entire NatureServe network, which encompasses most US states, Mexico, and Canada. Biotics data on threatened or endangered species and rare ecosystems is used to assist with conservation planning. In Nevada, we use Biotics to store data on the distribution of rare wetlands such as fens. To get access to Nevada’s Biotics data (wetlands or threatened/endangered species) please submit a data request.

SpringsOnline - This is a collaborative worldwide database of springs and spring-dependent species managed by the Springs Stewardship Institute. Springs researchers can contribute survey data or access existing data on thousands of Nevada springs.