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Spatial Wetland Assessment for Management and Planning (SWAMP)

Lori Sutter, Technology Planning and Management Corporation, NOAA Coastal Services Center
Jeff Cowen, NOAA Coastal Services Center

Photo of a Wetland

The NOAA Coastal Services Center has developed a conceptual GIS model to evaluate the relative significance of tidal and riverine wetlands within their watersheds. The basis of this model is the North Carolina Coastal Region Evaluation of Wetland Significance (Sutter et al. 1999). Called Spatial Wetland Assessment for Management and Planning (SWAMP), the model evaluates a wetland's contribution to water quality, hydrology, and habitat. These functions of tidal and riverine wetlands are based on landscape features and site characteristics. The evaluation is performed in ArcView, using Avenue calls to capabilities provided in Spatial Analyst.


Table Of Contents


Introduction

Wetlands provide many services to the coastal landscape and are of interest to coastal managers, specifically, how to protect the integrity of a wetland ecosystem while managing for human use. Borrowing from the constructs of a model developed by the North Carolina Division of Coastal Management°™the North Carolina Coastal Region Evaluation of Wetland Significance (NC-CREWS) (Sutter et al. 1999)°™the NOAA Coastal Services Center (Center) has developed a modeling approach to guide managers in decision making using a fundamental understanding of the ecology of these systems on the landscape. This approach, the Spatial Wetland Assessment for Management and Planning (SWAMP), uses basic ecological principles to evaluate the significance of wetlands within a watershed while allowing the decision maker to establish the rules for overall rating.

Photo of a Wetland

Wetlands are of great ecological importance, in part because they occupy so much of the area and are significant components of virtually all coastal ecosystems, and in part because of their relationships to coastal water quality, estuarine productivity, wildlife habitat, and the overall character of the coastal area. Although agricultural conversion, the largest historical contributor to wetlands loss, has largely stopped, wetlands continue to be lost as they are drained or filled for development. The loss of vast acreages of wetlands causes concern because the services these ecosystems provide to the landscape are lost with them. Conflicts between economic development and wetlands protection continue to be a major concern, with many coastal communities considering wetlands protection to be a major barrier to needed economic development. Since wetlands are such a dominant part of the coastal landscape and are vitally important to many aspects of the area's ecology, their management and protection is a major concern.

SWAMP facilitates the basic analyses of these systems while allowing the user the final opportunity to assign the relative importance of each parameter. The SWAMP approach was developed within the Ashepoo-Combahee-Edisto (ACE) Basin, South Carolina, for tidal and riverine wetlands, but the approach should be applicable to any geography. This approach can be transferred to other geographies, initiated with a workshop that brings together local experts to describe the system ecology and establish parameters and thresholds.

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Updated on: July 14, 2000