What Is The Status of Mapping California Wetlands?
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Contemporary wetland mapping in California dates back to the 1940’s when the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) produced topographic maps that included streams, marshes, lakes and ponds. These have been consolidated into the National Hydrography Dataset (NHD ).
Since 1974, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) National Wetland Inventory (NWI) program has mapped the country’s wetlands on a regular cycle. Between these two efforts, California has digital wetland maps for about 75% of the State – almost 123,000 square miles. Agencies, municipalities, and researchers use these maps every day for wetland protection and research.
Despite ongoing mapping efforts, there are still portions of the State which are significantly under-mapped or not in a GIS-compatible format – particularly with respect to wetlands that are more subtle in the landscape. In other areas more detailed maps are becoming available. This means that wetland maps for different parts of the state vary in terms of when they were created, level of detail, mapping methodology, and data formats. The end result is that available maps do not conform to a uniform standard nor can be used to assess wetland extent consistently around the state.
Wetland managers, agency staff, and scientists have recognized the need for a consistent statewide map of wetlands and streams. They are now partnering to develop the California Aquatic Resource Inventory, or CARI. This team has drafted a standard methodology and classification system which can now be used to build the statewide map. Initially, the CARI Geographic Information System (GIS) dataset will consist of a compilation of maps from multiple sources to produce a statewide map with a common classification method. The interactive map to the left highlights these enriched mapping sources. Details about these efforts can be found here: http://www.sfei.org/it/gis/cari/. This map will be the basis for further updates as outdated information is replaced with new maps that conform to the CARI standards.
Ultimately, CARI will be integrated nationally through partnerships with USGS and USFWS. The CARI team is working towards a seamless integration into the NWI and NHD so that national maps include the more detailed and comprehensive data found in CARI. If you are interested in getting more information about CARI or contributing information for an under-mapped region, or simply want more information about CARI, please email CARImapping@sfei.org.