Because wetlands were drained and filled for farming and building purposes
during the last several hundred years, more than half of the original
wetlands in the United States have been lost (Frayer and others, 1983).
Only during the last quarter century has society begun to understand the
value of wetlands and the particular benefits that they provide. (See the
article "History of Wetlands in the Conterminous United States" in this
volume.) This understanding has been broadened by the concerted efforts of
many public and private researchers. This article addresses the research
contributions of Federal agencies: which agencies are involved in wetland
research, why they are involved, and the nature of their research.
In an effort to develop a strategy for preventing the further loss of
wetlands, the Committee on Earth and Environmental Sciences established a
Wetlands Research Subcommittee to determine the status of wetland research
being conducted by Federal agencies. These efforts resulted in an
unpublished report that presented a national inventory and data base of
ongoing research and addressed future research needs (Wetlands Research
Subcommittee, unpub. data, 1992). Data presented in the following few
pages are drawn largely from these findings.
During 1992, Federal wetland research expenditures were about $63 million. A total Federal investment of more than $250 million is distributed over the lifetime of the existing projects. The amount of Federal research spending per State is depicted in figure 41.
standing of wetlands as a valued resource has been broadened by the concerted efforts of many public and private researchers.
THE REASONS FOR FEDERAL INVOLVEMENT IN WETLAND RESEARCH
Scientists from many organizations, including those in the private sector,
those from colleges and universities, and those from public institutions,
are engaged in wetland research. Typically, each organization has its own
reasons for being involved in wetland research. Federal wetland research
may be done because it is part of an agency's mission, is part of an
agency's responsibilities as outlined by the Congress, or is otherwise in
the national interest.
When research is mission oriented, it is part of the basic work of an agency. Mission-oriented Federal agency wetland research generally is done for one of five reasons:
Although many different levels of government may have mission-oriented
research, Federal agency wetland research activities relate to
congressionally mandated responsibilities. Most significant among these
are provisions that relate to:
TYPES OF FEDERAL WETLAND RESEARCH
The Federal Wetlands Research Inventory and Database reported in 1992 that
18 Federal agencies were conducting some wetland research (Wetlands
Research Subcommittee, unpub. data, 1992). Two types of research were
included in the inventory-focused and contributing. Focused research is
specifically designed to investigate wetlands or some component thereof;
contributing research provides some information about wetlands but is not
directly related to wetlands.
Research categories also were identified by the Inventory and Database. These categories were defined by the subject of the wetland research being conducted, and were listed in five topical areas:
Figure 42 depicts the expenditures on
Federal research in each of these categories in 1992. Individual research
studies may span several of these categories; however, these categories
represent a convenient way to describe existing research activities.
In addition to distinguishing the type of research, it also is useful to distinguish the type of wetland being studied. Because ecological processes and functions differ with the type of wetland, research needs and techniques also differ. Disappearing coastal and bottom-land hardwood wetlands are among the major areas of research. Figure 43 shows Federal expenditures for research on different types of wetlands. (See article Wetland Definitions and Classification in the Conterminous United States" for an explanation of wetland types.)
AGENCY ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES
Federal wetland research is conducted throughout the Nation. Twelve
agencies listed in the Wetland Research Subcommittee's report and discussed
below have wetland research expenditures of $1 million or more. Although
not discussed below, other agencies with less funding that also contribute
to wetland research are the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Mines,
Bureau of Reclamation, Minerals Management Service, and Office of Surface
Mining; the Federal Highway Administration's Department of Transportation;
and the National Science Foundation.
Department of the Interior
| Wetland research activities in the
Department of the Interior relate to its responsibilities as the primary
steward of America's natural resources. The Department of the Interior
performs basic scientific research on wetland processes and functions and
applied focused research on human-induced stresses, delineation and
identification, and management of wetlands. The Department assumes
ownership and management responsibilities for wetlands through the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Park Service, and
scientific research responsibilities through the activities of the U.S.
Geological Survey (USGS) and the National Biological Service (NBS).
Research funding for the Department was greater than $30.5 million in 1992
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: The FWS has stewardship responsibilities for fish and other wildlife (such as migratory birds, anadromous fish, and endangered species), their habitats, and for wildlife refuges. As a major Federal landowner, the FWS protects and manages wetlands and associated habitats on more than 90 million acres of national wildlife refuges and provides advice about and technical support for regulatory activities and trust species to other Federal, State, and private landowners. The FWS, through the National Wetlands Inventory program, provides detailed wetland maps for the Nation, and also reports to Congress every 10 years the status and trends of the Nation's wetlands. (See article "Wetland Mapping and Inventory" in this volume.) Research focuses on improved methods and tools for identifying and delineating different wetland types.
U.S. Geological Survey: The USGS provides
geologic, hydrologic, and topographic information to assist Federal, State,
and local governments, the private sector, and individual citizens in
making management decisions about the use of land and water resources. The
USGS's wetland research activities are an important part of the agency's
activities. Research focuses on the geology, chemistry, hydrology, and
biology of wetlands and their interactions. Studies are conducted in
selected wetlands to determine the processes responsible for the formation
and evolution of wetlands and to increase understanding of wetland
functions. Some specific topics that hydrologic studies address are
ground-water/surface-water interactions; the role of wetlands in
water-quality improvement; the relation between flood-plain wetlands,
riverine and estuarine hydrology, and water quality; and the relation of
light and water chemistry to aquatic plant distribution in tidal waters.
National Park Service: Wetland research by the National Park Service is
primarily issue driven; it is management-oriented and focuses on protecting
resources, mitigating the effects of human actions on wetlands, and
restoring natural wetland functions where they have been disturbed by past
or ongoing human activities.
National Biological Service: The NBS was established in October 1993 and, therefore, was not included in the report by the Wetland Research Subcommittee and not included in the graphs in figures 42-43. However, it is a large player in research being done on wetlands and, therefore, is included in this discussion. The NBS inventories and monitors wetlands and conducts biological research on many aspects of wetlands; in fact, most activities of the NBS are wetland related. It provides biological information and research support to management agencies within the Federal Government.
What happens to wetlands in one State can affect wetland activities, benefits, and uses in another State.
Department of Energy
Department of Defense
| The Department of Energy's role in and
responsibilities toward wetland research are related to its compliance with
environmental regulations. The Department does this by assessing the
environmental effects of its activities on lands, including wetlands, under
its jurisdiction, and by operating and developing facilities in ways that
maintain and enhance environmental quality while providing efficient energy
production, transmission, and use. Research focuses on supporting these
activities. Research funding was about $10.3 million in 1992 (figs. 42-43).
| Wetland research activities of the Department
of Defense result primarily from legislation pertaining to the mission of
the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps). The Army, through the Corps, is
assigned responsibility for much of the Nation's water-resource development
activities, including efforts to protect, conserve, restore, and establish
new wetlands. In performing its development mission, such as keeping
waterways open by dredging or building levees to protect cities from
flooding, the Corps directly affects wetlands and must consider the effects
of its activities. The Corps has established a formal Wetlands Research
Program to support its wetland-related responsibilities. This program is
designed to include both basic and applied research that emphasize the
Corps strengths in engineering design and construction, stewardship, and
management. Research funding for the Corps in 1992 was about $6.5 million
Department of Agriculture
The Department of Agriculture performs wetland research through several of
its agencies; the Natural Resources Conservation Service (formerly known as
the Soil Conservation Service), the Agricultural Research Service, and the
U.S. Forest Service. Research funding for the Department of Agriculture
was about $4.5 million in 1992 (figs. 42-43).
Natural Resources Conservation Service: The Natural Resources Conservation Service assists other Federal, State, and local governments in resource conservation activities that include wetland protection. Their authority covers mainly lands with high potential for conversion to agricultural uses.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service's plant materials centers develop new varieties of plants and the technology for using plants to solve soil and water-conservation problems. They also provide for the commercial production of these plants. Some of the centers conduct investigations on how to reestablish marsh vegetation along eroding tidal shores in the mid-Atlantic States and the Gulf Coast States from Alabama to Mexico. Projects are underway at other centers to develop new varieties of plants and encourage plant reproduction, to develop techniques for establishing and maintaining restored and created freshwater wetlands, and to design and construct wetlands that act as biological filters of agricultural runoff.
Economic Research Service: Although the Economic Research Service
is not one of the agencies listed in the Wetland Research Subcommittee
report, its research is integral to oversight of the Wetland Reserve
Program by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (see the article
Wetland Protection Legislation" in this volume), and is, therefore,
mentioned in this discussion. The Economic Research Service conducts cost
and benefit comparison studies to determine effective economic incentives
associated with wetland conservation or destruction. Because the Wetland
Reserve Program is voluntary, research focuses on identifying costs that
limit farmers' participation.
Agricultural Research Service: The Agricultural Research Service's mission includes development of technology needed to ensure maintenance of environmental quality and natural resources. Their research supports implementation of Federal agricultural legislation and development of new agricultural practices that produce less off-site contamination. Many programs indirectly contribute to national wetland goals by improving management of basins that drain into wetlands.
U.S. Forest Service: The U.S. Forest Service conducts research to support improved management of Federal, State, and private forests; the research comprises efforts to describe ecosystem dynamics and to develop improved technology for restoring and rehabilitating forested wetlands. Research is conducted on the role of flowing water in sustaining chemical, physical, and biological processes integral to the functioning of wetland and riparian ecosystems. The Forest Service also conducts studies of technological improvements used for reforesting wetland and riparian sites, which involves understanding how tree species adapt to flooding. Other areas of study include establishing understory vegetation, restoring wetland hydrology, and rehabilitating fish and other wildlife habitat.
Department of Commerce
| The Department of Commerce conducts its
research through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In
1992, funding for research by the Department was about $3 million (figs.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) mission is to manage our ocean and coastal resources, describe and predict changes in the Earth's oceans and atmosphere, and promote its global stewardship through scientific research and service. Three of NOAA's five organizations are directly involved in wetland research: the National Marine Fisheries Service, the National Ocean Service, and the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research. NOAA also has a relevant agency-wide program, the Coastal Ocean Program, which supports management of the coastal ocean environment.
The Coastal Ocean Program is intended to provide scientific products that support coastal ocean management through improved understanding and prediction of environmental quality, fishery resources, and coastal hazards. One of the Coastal Ocean Program's component programs seeks to understand and quantify the relation between estuarine habitat and coastal ocean productivity. Initial research has been focused on locating and determining rates of loss of seagrasses, emergent marshes, and adjacent uplands using satellite and aerial photography. Research is being conducted on the functional attributes of these habitats and their capability of being restored.
National Marine Fisheries Service: This organization is the Federal steward of the Nation's living marine resources, from 200 miles offshore (the seaward extent of the Nation's assessment of mineral and energy sources) to the freshwater tributaries used by anadromous species for spawning. National Marine Fisheries Service's scientists conduct basic and applied research to advance understanding of wetland habitat functioning in response to natural and human-induced environmental changes, to develop improved techniques for habitat restoration and assessment, and to support the habitat permit review process. The National Marine Fisheries Service's Restoration Center develops and implements habitat restoration plans that seek to restore, replace, or acquire the equivalent of the resources determined to have been injured by releases of oil or hazardous substances to the environment.
National Ocean Service: This organization administers programs
that provide support for managing marine environments. It manages a
national network of marine sanctuaries and estuarine research reserves.
The estuarine research reserves, throughout the National Estuarine Research
Reserves System, are established, managed, and maintained with the help of
State authorities to assure their long-term protection. Research
activities are used to facilitate management of wetlands. Priorities
change biennially and have included nonpoint-source pollution (1993-94) and
habitat restoration (1994-95).
Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research: This organization is responsible for conducting research that improves understanding and prediction of oceanic and atmospheric conditions. This includes investigating processes that regulate wetland ecosystem structure and production, the responses of these systems to natural and human-induced conditions, and the effects of global climate and other atmospheric conditions on marine resources and ecosystems.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Tennessee Valley Authority
Research needs within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are
extensive. The Wetlands Research Program of the EPA is an applied research
program that primarily provides technical support to improve the Agency's
ability to carry out its regulatory responsibilities. Three components of
the Wetlands Research Program are the Wetland Function Project, the
Characterization and Restoration Project, and the Landscape Function
Project. Detailed studies of individual wetlands conducted to understand
better the processes within wetlands that contribute to wetland functions
and wetland responses to environmental stressors are carried out through
the Wetland Function Project. Studies of the characteristics of groups of
wetlands that compare the functions of natural, restored, and created
wetlands within similar geographic settings are carried out through the
Characterization and Restoration Project. Research is conducted on the
interactions of wetlands with other ecosystems and on the cumulative
effects of human activities on wetland functions through the Landscape
Function Project. In 1992, EPA's funding for wetland research was about $3
million (figs. 42-43).
The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is a resource management agency
created by the Tennessee Valley Authority Act of 1933. Its research
focuses on both natural and constructed wetlands. Natural-wetlands
research is directed toward protecting and enhancing aquatic bed, emergent,
and riparian forested wetlands and the wildlife populations dependent on
them. Constructed-wetlands research is directed toward designing and
operating constructed wetlands to solve specific waste-management or
environmental problems and examining the basic mechanics and physiology of
these systems. Wetland research is conducted in the field, in
laboratories, and at a unique 32-celled physical model at a
constructed-wetland research facility in Muscle Shoals, Ala. In 1992,
funding for research was about $3 million (figs. 42-43).
Smithsonian InstitutionSmithsonian research on wetlands is focused on the biota, hydrology, and functions of wetlands. Aerial photographs, remote sensing, and Geographic Information Systems are used to extend research results from specific sites to larger regions and to relate wetlands to their drainage basins. Research support comes directly from Congress, from Smithsonian trust funds, and from extramural grants and contracts. Funding for research in 1992 was about $1 million (figs. 42-43).
The information derived from broad-scope, individual agency research may comple- ment that of other agencies.
COORDINATION OF RESEARCH AMONG FEDERAL AGENCIES
Federal agencies conduct wetland research to execute their congressionally
mandated missions. Generally these research efforts fall within
well-defined limits. By necessity, some agencies conduct research with a
broad range of activities. The information derived from broad-scope,
individual agency research may complement that of other agencies.
Federal agencies have special obligations, as stewards of public monies, to get the most out of research dollars. Effective coordination is essential to assure that agencies efficiently budget and use research funds, to ensure that research is not duplicated by two or more agencies (and money wasted), and to ensure that the best science" is achieved. Federal agencies involved in wetland research use formal and informal coordination mechanisms to achieve these goals.
Informal coordination takes many forms. It includes scientists from each
agency communicating directly with scientists in other agencies about
matters of common interest. It also includes many adhoc committees and
working groups organized to accomplish general coordination as well as
specific research objectives. Among the adhoc committees is the Federal
Interagency Coordination Committee on Wetlands Research and Development, a
voluntary group that meets annually in Washington, D.C., to present the
status of agency research programs and discuss areas of potential
interaction. This Committee developed the first National Summary of
Ongoing Wetlands Research by Federal Agencies (U.S. Army Engineer Waterways
Experiment Station, 1992). All Federal agencies that perform wetland
research are invited to these meetings. Another voluntary adhoc committee,
the Forested Wetlands Research and Development Interagency Coordination
Committee, formed working groups and developed a multiyear interagency
research proposal for work in forested wetlands in Southern States. The
Corps, the NBS, and the FWS provide funds for this research; and the EPA,
Agricultural Research Service, and Natural Resources Conservation Service
actually do the research.
Federal agencies have special obligations, as stewards of public monies, to get the most out of research dollars.
Federal agencies also use informal scientific reviews of individual
projects and entire programs for coordination. The purpose of these
reviews is to expose a project or program to external review and comment,
as well as to provide a forum for exchanging views and ideas about each
participating agency's project or program. The wetland research programs
operated by the Corps, FWS, and EPA, and projects of the NBS's National
Wetland Research Center and Cooperative Research Units Center regularly
receive external peer review. Several Federal agencies regularly hold
interagency planning meetings to discuss new wetland research goals and
projects, solicit comments, and explore areas for potential partnerships
Agencies with responsibilities for regulating and managing Federal lands, which include wetlands, conduct workshops, seminars, and other informal meetings to facilitate effective interaction and coordination of their research. Professional societies, scientific literature, agency publications, newsletters, bulletins, and topical conferences also offer mechanisms for coordination and information exchange.
More formal coordination is achieved through exchange agreements, in which
scientists may be exchanged from one agency to another for specific periods
to provide needed expertise. As an example, the Wetlands Classification
System developed by the FWS was prepared with full-time assistance of
scientists from the Corps and the Soil Conservation Service, and the
authors of the report defining the system (Cowardin and others, 1979)
included representatives from the FWS, the USGS, and NOAA. Written
agreements such as Memorandums of Agreement or Memorandums of Understanding
also are used to facilitate cooperation between agencies that share mutual
objectives. Reimbursable and shared funding may be used to leverage
available research dollars and take advantage of specific expertise
available in some agencies and lacking in others. Formal coordination may
be required by specific legislative or administrative decisions, such as
the Clinton administration's decisions relating to implementation of the
Breaux Bill, which requires agencies to coordinate in assessing damages and
implementing corrective mechanisms in south Louisiana's coastal
Representatives of Federal agencies listed herein contributed to this
report. The authors are particularly grateful to the following: Robert E.
Stewart, Jr., NBS; Mon S. Yee, Natural Resources Conservation Service; Doug
Ryan, U.S. Forest Service; David Correll, Smithsonian Institute; Mary E.
Kentula, EPA; David A. Seyler, USGS; Clive Jorgensen, Department of Energy;
and Joel Wagner, National Park Service.
FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:Wetlands Research Program (CEWES-EP-W),
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Waterways Experiment Station
3909 Hall Ferry Rd.,
Vicksburg, MS 39180
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