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Project: Statewide Framework for Wetland and Riparian Monitoring and Assessment

Background and Objectives

In response to drastic loss of wetland acreage in California, billions of dollars have been invested in recent decades for the protection and restoration of California's wetlands and riparian areas. However, statewide wetland and riparian area monitoring is hampered by the lack of routine or systematic condition assessments, differences in monitoring approaches across projects, inconsistent data quality assurance, and problems accessing existing data. To overcome similar issues at a national level, the US Fish and Wildlife Service National Wetland Inventory (NWI) program adopted a probability-based survey approach to assess trends in wetland acreage and produce status and trends (S&T) plots. The US Environmental Protection Agency incorporated the same survey design into the National Wetland Condition Assessment (NWCA).

The US Environmental Protection Agency’s three-level monitoring framework includes Level 1 (wetland mapping), Level 2 (rapid assessment of overall wetland condition or “health”), and level 3 (intensive assessment of wetland condition, benefits, or stressors)

Two new initiatives were also undertaken in California. First, the State Water Resources Control Board is developing a new Wetland and Riparian Area Protection Policy. Second, under the auspices of the California Water Quality Monitoring Council, the California Wetlands Monitoring Workgroup (CWMW) has developed and is working to implement a statewide Wetland and Riparian Area Monitoring Program (WRAMP). The WRAMP seeks to regularly report on trends in wetland extent and condition, and relate these trends to management actions, climate change, and other natural and anthropogenic factors, to help inform future decisions. To support the State’s efforts, new and revised technical tools were needed for condition assessment, mapping, and mitigation and restoration planning.

The goal of this project was to build a technical framework for statewide wetland and riparian monitoring and assessment. Objectives were to facilitate the CWMW, support implementation of the WRAMP, and provide a technical foundation and tools to support the State Water Board's wetland regulatory policy.


This project was initiated in 2007 and completed in 2013. Support activities are ongoing.


This project involved developing a strategy for and implementing a statewide wetland status and trends assessment, as well as developing new technical tools for wetland tracking. To achieve this, SCCWRP researchers participated in the Southern California Wetland Recovery Project and the CWMW. Elements of the WRAMP include:

• Wetland definition, mapping, classification, and delineation;
• Wetland monitoring and assessment;
• Data quality assurance and quality control;
• Data management, outreach, and information sharing.

Technical tasks to support statewide wetland monitoring and assessment have included:

• Producing a sampling design, standard operating procedures, and cost estimates for wetland mapping;
• Identifying ways to refine the technical approach, reduce sample error, and evaluate proposed change assessment methodologies;
• Mapping wetlands within each statistically sampled grid square with remote sensing data, in combination with an adequate degree of ground-truthing, to determine the degree of recent wetland change;
• Developing performance curves based on the California Rapid Assessment Method (CRAM) for perennial estuarine and coastal riverine wetlands that forecast how beneficial uses and functional capacity of restoration projects should improve over time, using regional reference sites to predict best achievable conditions;
• Establishing a network of reference wetlands across the State using CRAM for selected wetland types; and
• Training regional mapping center partners and conducting intercalibration exercises to ensure consistency in mapping methods.


The WRAMP strategy builds on the NWCA plan, incorporating the use of both census- and probability-based approaches. It was developed iteratively through coordination with wetland scientists across California. Preliminary drafts were reviewed by the State technical advisory team and regional workgroups, including Southern California Wetland Recovery Project workgroups. The WRAMP was endorsed by the California Water Quality Monitoring Council for implementation by all State agencies in 2010.

The WRAMP is currently being piloted by the State and Regional Water Quality Control Boards in several regions of the State. The implementation strategy is to incorporate standardized methodologies into existing and future State and Federal programs and projects, such as California High Speed Rail, the Central Valley Flood Protection Program, and solar projects overseen by the California Energy Commission. The California Wetlands Portal, launched in 2009 as part of the State’s “My Water Quality” web site, compiles and assimilates wetland information, including that produced under WRAMP. This project also produced S&T plots and a summary assessment of wetland extent and condition. Maps of wetlands in Southern California coastal watersheds are available through the San Francisco Estuary Institute's Southern California Wetland Mapping Project website and the California EcoAtlas.


• California Department of Fish and Game
• California Resources Agency
• California State University Northridge
• California State University San Marcos
• California Wetlands Monitoring Workgroup
• Humboldt Bay Harbor Recreation and Conservation District
• Moss Landing Marine Laboratories
• San Francisco Estuary Institute
• Southern California Wetland Recovery Project
• US Environmental Protection Agency
• US Fish and Wildlife Service National Wetlands Inventory
For more information on Development of a Statewide Framework for Wetland and Riparian Monitoring and Assessment, contact Eric Stein at (714) 755-3233.
This page was last updated on: 4/6/2017