National Park Service

Rocky Mountain I&M Network

Wetland Ecological Integrity

Katie Driver (CSU) in an alpine wet meadow below Trail Ridge road near Forest Canyon Overlook.
Katie Driver (Colorado State University) in an alpine wet meadow in Rocky Mountain National Park below Trail Ridge road near Forest Canyon Overlook.

Wetlands Ecological Integrity Briefs

Wetlands Inventory Reports

There are currently no monitoring reports for this research topic.

Wetlands Ecological Integrity Monitoring Protocol

For more information contact: Billy Schweiger


Wetlands are important components of nearly all Rocky Mountain Network watersheds and provide many valuable ecological and socioeconomic functions. For example, relative to their area, wetlands support a disproportionate amount of the biodiversity in each Rocky Mountain Network park. Wetland vegetation is also an excellent indicator of changes in groundwater levels and sediment dynamics. However, wetlands are vulnerable to stressors functioning at the site and landscape scales, and many Rocky Mountain Network wetlands are likely in a degraded condition (e.g., species assemblages and dynamics may not be within a normal range of variability due to hydrologic modifications such as changes in groundwater levels or stream diversions, fill, overgrazing by native ungulates, historical grazing by domestic livestock, atmospheric deposition, and invasion by exotic taxa).

Preliminary Monitoring Objectives

  • Determine long-term status and trend in spatial extent of wetland by key type within each park.
  • Monitor the status and trend in vegetation assemblages at the park scale using multimetric indices.
  • Quantify the seasonal, annual, and/or decadal water-table depth and dynamics and its statistical relationship with a multimetric vegetation index of biotic integrity at a subset of wetland sites.
  • Determine the proportion and longterm trend in wetland areas that meet regulatory criteria for water and sediment chemistry (nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur) and/or derived reference levels.
  • Determine the extent, temporal dynamics, and relative importance of impacts from ungulate herbivory, beaver presence/absence, and invasive species at a subset of wetland sites and/or at the park scale.
  • Determine the status and trend in select measures (e.g., area, fragmentation, connectivity) of the meso- (the buffer zone around a given wetland or its immediate drainage catchment) and landscape-scale context, composition, and structure of wetland systems.
Wetland Soil Examples
Wetland soil examples.

Potential Measures

  • Plant species composition, abundance, frequency and cover
  • Water table depth
  • Presence/absence and of invasive plant taxa
  • Water chemistry
  • Presence/absence of beaver sign
  • Presence/absence of elk herbivory

Protocol Status

The Rocky Mountain Network Wetlands protocol has been peer-reviewed published [Narrative, SOP]. We developed the protocol in collaboration with David Cooper and others at Colorado State University. We monitor wetlands annually using this protocol in Rocky Mountain National Park, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, and Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. Future work may expand this to Glacier National Park.

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Last Updated: October 05, 2017 Contact Webmaster