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Coastal Wetland Decision Support Tools Now Available for Great Lakes

December 12, 2016

Upper Midwest and Great Lakes Landscape Conservation Cooperative Launches Coastal Wetland Decision Support Tools

Available today, two new Coastal Wetland Decision Support Tools will collectively provide a means for Great Lakes coastal wetland managers to analyze and map conservation efforts while maximizing restoration impact. These tools can be found at and on the U.S. Geological Survey website.

Responding to population pressures, fragmentation and other stressors that threaten long-term sustainability of coastal resources in the Great Lakes region, the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes Landscape Conservation Cooperative has acted to unify federal agencies, state agencies and non-governmental organizations to form a Coastal Conservation Working Group. These tools are the next step in a Landscape Conservation Design process that began with that group setting targets and goals through partnership engagement and establishing a pilot area from Saginaw Bay, Michigan on Lake Huron to Western Lake Erie.

The Coastal Wetland Prioritization Tool provides information on the ecological condition, water quality, surrounding human pressures and conservation status of coastal wetlands. Through an intuitive interface, it allows coastal wetland managers to view the data, and select variables of interest, prioritize and report results.

“This tool acts as a bridge between data gathered through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the decision makers,” said Dr. Matthew Cooper of the Northland College Burke Center for Freshwater Innovation. “It will allow stakeholders to visualize data on wetland conditions, compare wetlands to one another and rank wetlands based on user defined criteria. We’ll achieve success by investing in wetland restoration projects that have the greatest impact.”

The prioritization tool was developed by researchers at Northland College, Central Michigan University, University of Minnesota Duluth and Limno Tech.

The Great Lakes Coastal Wetland Restoration Assessments help coastal wetland managers consider the broader context of their local conservation opportunities by identifying specific areas with high potential for restoration, comparing results with basemaps and oblique aerial photography and generating reports on areas of interest.

“As a wetland manager you may know your local region very well, but what support do you have to think beyond that, at a landscape scale?” asked Kurt Kowalski, a research ecologist at the USGS. “Using a restorability index model that factors in criteria like the presence of hydric soils, wetness under historical lake-level patterns and the ability to support wetland vegetation, we can begin to see which lands might be most conducive for restoration back to coastal wetland.”

The assessment tool was developed by the USGS Great Lakes Science Center and the New College of Florida.

Guided by these tools, the Coastal Conservation Working Group can focus the efforts of coastal wetland managers in the pilot area towards on-the-ground implementation, knowing the projects will lead to maximum, cost-effective impacts.

All those interested in using these tools to improve coastal wetland conservation in the Great Lakes are encouraged to attend the live demonstration webinar on December 19, 2016, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Central time. Register and receive access details online.

Visit to learn more, and sign up to receive ongoing updates at

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