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Wisconsin wetlands assessment reports and maps

The following is a list of reports of projects completed in the past few years. All projects have been funded by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency–Region V Wetland Grants.

  • Natural Scenic Beauty of Wisconsin Wetlands

    The purpose of this project was to inform development of a decision support tool to facilitate rapid functional value assessments or other similar efforts related to natural scenic beauty of w etlands in Wisconsin. This report presents results from an online panel study conducted in 2023, and presents study findings, interprets the information within pertinent contexts, and identifies potential lines of additional inquiry.  

  • Creation of Rare and Unique Wetland Community Quality Thresholds

    To expand our capacity to assess the condition of wetlands in Wisconsin, the Department identified six rare and unique wetland community types for vegetation surveys and condition analysis: Bog Relicts, Forested Seeps, Interdunal Wetlands, Southern Tamarack Swamps, Wet Prairies, and White Pine-Red Maple Swamps. This report expands upon previously published reports that established floristic quality benchmarks for commonly-occurring wetland communities in Wisconsin.  

  • Development of a Rapid Floristic Quality Assessment Methodology for Wisconsin Wetlands

    The DNR completed a draft wetland monitoring protocol to assess wetland vegetation condition rapidly. The goal of this effort was to review appropriate rapid floristic assessment methodologies and to develop a new monitoring protocol for DNR staff and partners to use in Wisconsin. This report outlines the process the DNR took to develop this draft methodology and the basics of the tool. This report should primarily be used to understand how DNR data was used to create the draft methodology The final draft of this monitoring methodology will be made available on the DNR Wetland Monitoring Assessment Methods and Tools page when it has been finalized.

  • Reference Wetland Hydrologic Regime Monitoring

    The DNR conducted a study of wetland hydrologic regimes of southern sedge meadows and wet-mesic prairies in the Southern Wisconsin. The goal of this study was to inform wetland compensatory mitigation performance standards on the hydrologic regimes of commonly restored wetlands in the Southern portion of Wisconsin. The study collected groundwater level data from wetlands that had been selected for their reference-quality vegetation. The study also assessed each site's floristic quality and evaluated species composition to see what relationships exist between hydrologic regimes and plant species assemblages.

  • Long-term Trends in Mitigation and Wetland Restoration: Ecological Condition and Soil Organic Carbon

    The DNR completed a study of wetland vegetation and soils in older compensatory wetland mitigation sites in Wisconsin ranging from ten to thirty years old. This report assesses the long-term trends in wetland mitigation tracking, mitigation site characteristics that resulted in excellent condition outcomes (only making up 3% of sites) and very poor condition outcomes (comprising 35% of all sites assessed). The report dives deeply into restoration methodologies, vegetation trends, and soil organic carbon trends.

  • Integration of Wetland Monitoring and Assessment into Targeted Watershed Assessments in Wisconsin: A Pilot

    The DNR conducted a pilot study of three HUC-12 watersheds using two site selection methodologies: a randomized, probabilistic selection protocol and a targeted site selection method. In this report, the DNR compares the results of both methodologies in this targeted watershed assessment and summarizes the conditions of the wetlands within this watershed.

  • DNR Integrated Wetland and Surface Waters Pilot Study: Progress Toward an Improved, Modernized GIS Data Production Model for the Wisconsin Wetland Inventory (WWI)

    The report summarizes a new protocol that DNR developed to map Wisconsin’s wetlands using NWI standards plus additional Wisconsin-state classifications. This report also assesses the feasibility of applying this new protocol to the entire state in an effort to update all wetland maps to the new mapping protocol.

  • Provisional Wetland Floristic Quality Benchmarks for Wetland Monitoring and Assessment in Wisconsin (1A)
    Provisional Wetland Floristic Quality Benchmarks for Wetland Monitoring and Assessment in Wisconsin (1B)

    The DNR developed the Wisconsin Floristic Quality Assessment (WFQA) Method as an intensive, site-level (Level 3), vegetation-based approach for monitoring and assessment of wetlands in Wisconsin. DNR and partners from the DNR Natural Heritage Conservation Bureau and Lake Superior Research Institute conducted nearly 1,100 WFQA surveys across Wisconsin from 2012-2018 to develop WFQA Benchmarks. The resulting provisional Benchmarks are numeric ranges of weighted mean coefficient of conservatism scores (a WFQA metric) that correspond to five quality/condition categories for commonly occurring wetland communities in each of the four US EPA Omernik Level III Ecoregions of the state - the Northern Lakes and Forests, the North Central Hardwood Forests, the Driftless Area, and the Southeast Wisconsin Till Plains.

  • Floristic Quality Outcomes in Wetlands Restored Using a Variety of Hydrologic Restoration Techniques: An Application of Wisconsin DNR's FQA Methodology

    This report explores how differing techniques to restore wetland hydrology to wetland restoration sites impact the resulting vegetative quality years later. Wetland restoration practitioners have a range of hydrological restoration options depending on whether their goals are to completely restore or partially restore the hydrology of a site; complete removal of alterations is rarely attempted. The study was motivated by a lack of information on the consequences that the choice of hydrologic restoration technique may have to the success of a wetland restoration. The study focused primarily on the quality of the restored plant community as measured by floristic quality assessment (FQA).

  • Wetlands by Design - A watershed approach decision matrix tool

    The Nature Conservancy and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources have created an online tool to help Wisconsin citizens find the best sites to restore and protect - and the most promising watersheds to work in. Wetlands by Design was designed to support a watershed approach for wetland compensatory mitigation decisions that support sustainability or improvement of aquatic resources within a watershed. The Explorer tool can also inform watershed planning and enhance siting decisions and could be used to help winnow options from the hundreds or thousands of wetlands found in a watershed into a manageable number with the highest service potential.

  • Setting Floristic Quality Assessment Benchmarks for Inland Wetland Plant Community Condition Across Wisconsin: Establishing a Reference Wetland Network

    This report summarizes how a quantitative survey of more than 1,000 wetlands was used to establish a network of reference wetlands across Wisconsin. Sites ranged from least disturbed to most disturbed. Least disturbed sites were selected to be included in the reference wetland network. Around half of the reference sites (51%) were located on State Natural Areas, with the remainder located on other high-quality sites. Reference wetlands are used to improve regional and local understanding of plant community composition, to guide species planting lists for wetland restoration, and to develop objective floristic quality measures of wetland quality and condition.

  • Developing a Wisconsin Wetland Change Analysis & Building Compliance Monitoring Efforts

    this report explores how wetlands have changed in composition and extent in two areas of Wisconsin: west-central Wisconsin and north-west Wisconsin. this report details how DNR utilized updated geospatial wetland data to identify areas of wetland changes. once these areas were identified, wetland change analysts set out to determine which changes were due to natural shifts or from human activity. all man-made changes were further reviewed to determine if the wetland impacts were permitted activities.

  • Improving Wetland Mitigation Interagency Consistency to Benefit Wisconsin's Watersheds

    Wetland compensatory mitigation has seen many changes since the 2002 version of the Guidelines for Wetland Compensatory Mitigation in Wisconsin was written including 2008 Federal Rule for Compensatory Mitigation for Losses of Aquatic Resources and the 2011 Wisconsin Act 118. Therefore, the five agencies currently making up the Interagency Review Team (IRT) for wetland mitigation banks in Wisconsin (the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), DNR, EPA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)) underwent the task of updating the Guidelines. The resulting document is an improved tool for communicating mitigation requirements and best practices to the regulated public.

  • Accuracy Assessment of Ephemeral Pond Wetlands Mapping in Southeastern Wisconsin: Wisconsin Ephemeral Ponds Project (WEPP)

    This report presents the results of an accuracy assessment of an ephemeral ponds mapping project in southeastern Wisconsin. The project mapped 9,058 "Potential Ephemeral Ponds" or PEPs in an eight-county study area in southeastern Wisconsin. The accuracy assessment consisted of “ground-truth” surveys of 113 randomly selected mapped ponds and a 150m area "search area" surrounding the selected pond. The error of commission rate for incorrectly mapping a feature as an ephemeral pond, when it was not a wetland was 23%. The error of omission rate for missing ephemeral ponds was 19%. The size of the ephemeral ponds that were missed indicates that setting a minimum mapping unit of 0.03 acre (or 1,307 sq. ft.) as the minimum size that can be reliably mapped would be justified for this method.

  • Improving Wisconsin's Wetland Compensatory Mitigation Program: Factors Influencing Floristic Quality and Methods for Monitoring Wildlife (August 2009)

    This report contains three parts. The first part provides the results from evaluating vegetation data from 20 wetland restoration projects. The second part evaluates wildlife monitoring methods for possible use in wetland compensatory mitigation monitoring plans. The final part proposes ways to use a watershed approach to define restoration goals for a site.

  • Mapping Potentially Restorable Wetlands in the Rock River Basin

    This report details the process used to develop a map of potentially restorable wetlands in the 2.3-million-acre Rock River basin, so that it can be duplicated to produce maps for other areas and projects. The maps can be used to identify restoration opportunities and target high priority areas where wetland restoration can provide the "biggest bang for the buck" in ecosystem benefits. The data will be used to aid the implementation of the Rock River Basin TMDL plan.

  • Mead Lake Watershed Wetlands Assessment Project (April 2007)

    This report used digital wetland, soils and land use layers to identify potentially restorable wetland (PRW) sites. Relationships between the amount of lost, remaining and original wetlands were used to identify priority subwatershed areas for wetland restoration. The report also considers factors that affect restoration opportunity, such as incompatible land uses, hydrologic changes, and the need for appropriate incentives to motivate Mennonite and Amish landowners.

  • Reed Canary Grass Dominated Wetlands Data Layer

    The data layer was created from a mosaic of satellite images covering the entire state of Wisconsin. The map documents 498,250 acres of reed canary grass dominated wetlands at a minimum mapping unit of 1/2 acre. You can zoom in on a portion of the map to see areas of interest.

    The data layer is available for viewing through the Wisconsin DNR Surface Water Data Viewer.

    For more information on viewing this map, please contact:

    Christopher Smith

    1. Open the viewer by clicking on the link.
    2. Click on Show Layers under the Basic Tools tab.
    3. Click on the plus icon and check the box next to Wetland Indicators & Soils in the left column.
    4. Zoom in to the area of interest and check the box next to Reed Canary Grass.
    5. To see the legend, click on the Show Legend icon under the Basic Tools tab.
  • Mapping Wisconsin Wetlands Dominated by Reed Canary Grass, Phalaris arundinacea L.: A landscape level assessment (October 2008)

    This report outlines the procedure for mapping reed canary grass across the state. The final output is discussed with some conclusions drawn about the areas where reed canary grass concentrations are highest.

  • Using Landsat Imagery to Map Invasive Reed Canary Grass (Phalaris arundinacea): A Landscape Level Wetland Monitoring Methodology (March 2004)

    This report describes the rationale for mapping invasive reed canary grass in a pilot area and documents the classification protocol used to create the map. Results are reported by watershed.

  • Development of Methods to Assess and Monitor Small Wetlands Restored on Private Lands
    This report by Jill Hapner, prepared with the support of Ozaukee County and EPA Region V, evaluates wetlands restored on private lands in Ozaukee County. Wetland functions in a random sample of the county restoration sites were measured and compared. The report also includes survey results about the management concerns of the wetland landowners.


  • Development of a Floristic Quality Assessment Methodology for Wisconsin (June 2003)
    This method allows for an intensive, expert-based, assessment of the floristic quality, or biological condition, of a given wetland plant community. It is based on the assignment of a coefficient of conservatism to the vascular plant species found in Wisconsin. The method requires a high degree of plant identification skill to correctly inventory the site.