WAT-1998-01 Characterization and Functional Assessment of Reference Wetlands in Colorado


This special EPA-funded project with the full title Characterization and Functional Assessment of Reference Wetlands in Colorado: A Preliminary Investigation of Hydrogeomorphic (HGM) Classification and Functions for Colorado’s Wetlands was run by the CGS with CSU and CSM faculty and graduate student participation in field research. 416 pages. Digital PDF download. WAT-1998-01D

From the Introduction

This report is the result of a two-year, EPA-funded wetlands grant project. It contains an investigation of the status of wetlands management practices in Colorado; a first approximation of a hydrogeomorphic (HGM) classification of Colorado’s wetlands; the results of field and laboratory investigations from five reference wetland sites; and a first approximation of HGM hydrochemical, geochemical, sediment-retention, and carbon-storage/export variables and functional equations for Colorado wetlands. The results presented herein offer a starting point for the creation of regional HGM guidebooks to be used for future wetland-management activities. However, the HGM classifications, variables, functions, and functional equations from this report need to be assessed and tested by professional practitioners before being incorporated into any future HGM guidebooks.

Colorado contains a wide variety of wetland types, although its semi-arid climate supports a relatively small percentage of its total land area as wetlands (1.5%). These include riparian wetlands, wet meadows, fens, carrs, and marshes in the Rocky Mountains, Eastern Plains, and the Colorado Plateau. The variety among Colorado wetlands is directly related to the broad range of physiographic, hydrologic, and climatic factors found in the State. In addition to their limited extent, these wetlands are considered significant because of their perceived ecological functions, such as water control, water quality, and fish and wildlife habitat. Such wetlands are also vulnerable to degradation and loss from development of natural resources, agriculture, water use and population pressures. Estimates of loss or degradation to date are as high as 90% for many types, although precise figures on existing wetlands or wetlands loss are not available.