Wetland Restoration Suitability Model
In order to help direct conservation projects geared to wetland and floodplain restoration to the sites of highest ecological benefit, Ducks Unlimited and the USDA Forest Service jointly funded the development of a Wetland Restoration Suitability Model. The WRS Model was designed in line with DU's conservation priorities and was theoretically constructed around the three cornerstones of wetland delineation and taxonomy widely accepted by wetland science professionals: hydrology, soils, and vegetation. As users can see for themselves, DU aligned a number of its major data development projects described above to approximate these wetland characteristics. The datasets specifically incorporated into the WRS Model include, by category: hydrogeomorphology (Flood Probability, Areas of Internal Drainage, Stream Buffers), Soils (Soil Moisture Index) and Vegetation (Forest Change). The WRS Model provides users with four classes of restoration suitability, or more exactly a measure of the relative likelihood of a site being capable of sustaining a functioning wetland. Results are depicted as four suitability classes: High, Medium-High, Medium-Low, and Low. The prioritization and ranking of input variables was determined by Ducks Unlimited conservation planners and designed to give users a more comprehensive view of the ecological parameters that affect the potential capacity of every site in the MAV to sustain wetland ecological functionality. In addition to the data layers described above, the WRS model also incorporates an Area of Internal Drainage dataset derived from digital elevation data and a stream buffer dataset derived from the National Hydrography Dataset. All sites within the MAV without a WRS value were excluded because they are either already forested, already managed for conservation purposes, or contain permanent modifications such as roads or urban areas that make restoration there cost-prohibitive. Users should use caution when utilizing WRS Model results and not discount local area expertise. The WRS Model output should not entirely take the place of normal in-situ analyses and observations.