JohnRyan Polascik

M.S. Candidate, Eastern Kentucky University

Conference Travel Grant Type 2 (Society of Wetland Scientists)

Evaluating a Wetland Rapid Assessment Method for Kentucky using Forested Floodplain Wetlands

“In recent decades, Rapid Assessment Methods (RAMs) have been employed as a quick and qualitative approach to determine ecological integrity across various ecosystems. From an ecological and regulatory perspective, wetlands are a model system for using and testing RAMs. In terms of total wetland loss, Kentucky is among the nation’s highest with losses exceeding 80%. Of those wetlands remaining, the vast majority are forested floodplains. The goal of this study was to validate a wetland RAM currently being developed for Kentucky (KYWRAM) to be used in regulatory processes and scientific research. To do this, we quantified the response of multiple biotic indicators along a wetland disturbance gradient in forested floodplain wetlands and tested it against scores from the KYWRAM. This study was conducted within the Green River and Upper Cumberland River basins of Kentucky. Wetlands were selected by the US Environmental Protection Agency using a generalized random tessellation stratified sample design. Sites were sampled between 23 May and 26 September, 2012 (n = 20). At each site, a Vegetation Index of Biotic Integrity (VIBI) and KYWRAM were conducted. For sites sampled between 28 May and 28 June, 2012 (n = 10), point count surveys were conducted to determine bird species richness. VIBIs were conducted using ten 10×10 m plots and were composed of 10 forest metrics. RAMs were completed by individual raters and consist of 6 disturbance metrics. Point Counts were conducted within a 100 m radius using a 15 min survey. Results suggest that there is a significant positive relationship between KYWRAM and VIBI scores and KYWRAM and bird species richness. Scores within the Upper Cumberland River basin were found to be significantly higher than those within the Green River basin for VIBI, KYWRAM, and bird species richness. Both biotic indicators show similar relationships to the KYWRAM, which suggest the method is preforming correctly. The results from this research will be used towards the essential process of validation before being implemented as a regulatory process. In addition, this data can be used for future research and additional testing using other measures of disturbance to further validate this method. ”