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Prior to European settlement, wetland basins covered 4 to 6 million acres, or approximately 11% of Iowa's surface area. Wetlands were part of every watershed in the state, but nearly 95% of them have been drained.
In 2005, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Section began its wetland monitoring program in the prairie pothole wetlands located in north-central Iowa, through grant funds provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Since this initial grant a statewide monitoring program has been developed to assess wetlands types throughout Iowa. The results from this monitoring will enable the Iowa DNR to determine the ecological condition of Iowa’s wetlands.
Ambient Wetland Monitoring Program currently focuses on monitoring of Pothole, Riverine & Fen Wetlands. Starting in 2015 thirty (10 of each type) wetland sites have been selected for routine monitoring. These sites were visited three times in 2015 where water quality, vegetation, macroinvertebrate and fish sampling occurred. The program plans to monitor these sites on a rotational basis into the future in addition to new wetlands sites in Iowa
National Wetland Condition Assessment (NWCA) is a collaborative survey of our Nation's wetlands. The NWCA measures the chemical, physical and biological integrity of wetlands through a set of commonly used and widely accepted indicators. The NWCA is designed to answer basic questions about the extent to which our nation’s wetlands support healthy ecological conditions and the prevalence of key stressors at the national and regional scale. It is intended to complement and build upon the achievements of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wetland Status and Trends Program, which characterizes changes in wetland acreage across the conterminous United States. Paired together, these two efforts provide government agencies, wetland scientists, and the public with comparable, scientifically-defensible information documenting the current status and, ultimately, trends in both wetland quantity (i.e., area) and quality (i.e., ecological condition). The 2011 National Wetland Condition Assessment (NWCA) was the first national evaluation of the ecological condition of the nation’s wetlands. The second field sampling season will be conducted in 2016.