Assess Your Site for a Wetland Project
All wetlands have three characteristics: water, saturated soil and plants adapted to wet conditions. Some wetlands may be saturated with water throughout the year, while others rarely have standing water. All wetlands are characterized by “hydrophytes” (plants that are adapted for life in wet soils) and have hydric soils, meaning they are periodically saturated or flooded. There are many types of wetlands, classified by the amount and duration of water and by their specific plant community. Use the tips and tools below to determine if there is a feasible site on your school grounds for a wetland project!
Choosing a Site for a Wetland Project
As a first step, students can walk the school grounds to identify possible sites to enhance or create a wetland project. Students can use the tools and surveys on the Schools Grounds Site Assessment page to conduct wildlife surveys, assess growing conditions and identify soil texture. Below are some examples of types of areas to look for as potential wetland project sites:
- A Pond: Possible projects include planting wetland plants in the shallow water area of the pond and an upland buffer of shrubs and small trees next to the pond.
- An Area That is Always Wet & Soggy: This could be a good site for a wet meadow or shallow wetland.
- A Stream without a Forest Buffer: Plant a streamside forest buffer
- An Existing Wetland: Students may be able to add features to attract and support wildlife, such as installing nesting boxes or building brush pile shelters, or adding outdoor learning features such as trails and boardwalks or benches and viewing platforms. They could also identify and remove invasive plants and plant additional wetland native plant species.
Consult Wetlands Specialist:
Because of the complex nature of wetlands, consult a wetlands specialist to help with technical, administrative and logistical issues. This is also an opportunity for students to compare and contrast their findings with the expert’s recommendations. As with any project, be sure to establish a support team, including your facilities staff. Some sources of wetlands expertise:
- U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Chesapeake Bay Office
- State Natural Resource Agencies
- Natural Resource Conservation Service and Soil Conservation Districts
- Association of State Wetland Managers
- Local Public Works Departments
- Wetland Consulting Firms
- Universities (engineering or ecology professors)
- Engineering Firms