EKU Faculty and Staff Scholarship


Field-based Assessment of Wetland Condition, Wetland Extent, and the National Wetlands Inventory in Kentucky, USA


Biological Sciences

Document Type


Publication Date



The economic and ecological importance of wetlands is well documented, but there are few studies that have assessed wetland condition and extent for the United States. Many states, including Kentucky, have had no statewide field evaluation of wetlands of any kind. The National Wetland Inventory (NWI) is the largest database for mapped wetlands in the United States and the most comprehensive source of wetland information for Kentucky, but its value for determining wetland condition is limited. Therefore, our objectives were to document wetland extent and condition and assess the agreement between the NWI and field-based wetland characteristics in Kentucky. We conducted field and remote-sensing based assessments of 352 wetlands across the state. NWI-mapped and field-assessed wetlands had similar large-scale patterns; however, for individual wetlands, classification often disagreed. Based on our wetland assessment method, wetlands appear to be of moderate condition, although we found differences among basins, dominant vegetation types, and landscape positions and much variation as many sites scored very low and high. Our findings support previous work showing that rapid assessments are valuable for determining wetland condition for ambient monitoring and other applications. Also, our results provide the foundation for future status and trends studies and suggest an urgent need to update the NWI in Kentucky and elsewhere. We suggest that the NWI could be improved by using newer technology that increases wetland mapping accuracy and including predictions of wetland condition using the enhanced NWI approach.

Journal Title

Wetlands Ecology and Management