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Wetland Monitoring and Assessment: Wetlands Program

A white-faced ibis wades through a wetland

Assessment Tools for GSL Wetlands

Primary wetland classes around the Great Salt Lake and wetland management areas.

Developing methods for assessing the state of Utah’s wetlands has focused on those of Great Salt Lake, which account for approximately 75% of Utah’s total wetland area. To date, probabilistic surveys of two classes of GSL wetlands – impounded and fringe complex wetlands – have been conducted.

Impounded Wetlands

Impounded wetlands represent areas where dikes, berms, ditches and culverts have been constructed to control the inflow and outflow of water through wetlands. These wetlands are often intensively managed and occur as large, shallow ponds that range in size from 20 to over 500 acres. Since 2004 a significant amount of work has gone into the development of a multi-metric index of integrity (MMI) for GSL impounded wetlands. The impounded MMI described in reports below has four components: the condition of submerged aquatic vegetation, the composition of plant-dependent benthic macroinvertebrates, the extent of nuisance algal mats, and water chemistry.

Fringe Wetlands

Fringe wetlands are often (but not always) associated with impounded wetlands, and occur where freshwater flows over very gently sloping portions of the exposed lakebed. Fringe wetlands are often found below the outlets from impounded wetlands, from wastewater treatment facilities, and from other low-gradient surface channels or small streams. The reports below describe potential indicators of fringe wetland condition for a fringe-specific MMI.

Current UDWQ Wetland Monitoring and Assessment

Current Wetland Program work has three objectives related to GSL wetlands:

  1. Deploy sondes with high frequency data loggers at five impounded GSL wetlands where wetland-dependent bird use census data is available.
    1. Pilot study completed during summer and fall of 2019. Data is currently being processed and SOP’s for 2020 are being revised.
  2. Conduct a probabilistic survey of 40 impounded GSL wetlands with updated methods and produce a final tool for assessing this wetland class.
    1. 40 GSL impounded wetlands were surveyed during summer and fall 2019. Data is currently being analyzed in order to update indicators of anthropogenic disturbance and condition. Final assessment tool and reporting is expected in summer 2021.
  3. Expand monitoring and assessment activities to other wetland classes through a survey of 15 fringe wetlands around GSL using updated, more efficient methods.
    1. Fringe wetland survey methodology is currently being revised based on a literature review. Sites for the survey will be selected in March 2020.

Willard Spur

UDWQ staff conduct a nutrient addition experiment as part of the Willard Spur Water Quality Study

The Willard Spur is a large, unimpounded wetland complex located in the Bear River Bay of GSL between Willard Bay and Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. The Willard Spur Water Quality Study was conducted from 2011 to 2013 in order to determine appropriate and defensible modifications to Utah’s water quality standards to ensure long-term protection of Willard Spur’s aquatic life. In 2019 the Utah State Legislature designated the Willard Spur as a state waterfowl management area (WMA). The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is in the process of developing a management plan for the new WMA. The reports below summarize the Willard Spur study results and the results of Conservation Action Planning meetings held in support of Willard Spur.

Sampling and Analysis Plans

UDWQ staff sampling wetland soils’

Standard Operating Procedures

Previous Work on Wetland Assessment

UDWQ staff sample benthic macroinvertebrates in a wetland

For more information, contact:

Becka Downard
Utah Division of Water Quality
195 North 1950 West
Salt Lake City, Utah 84116
(801) 536-4340