How do we perform a Wetland Delineation?
In order to determine if wet area meets the qualifications for a wetland, a wetland professional assesses three main components. These three components are the basis for a wetland delineation. The plant community, the soils, and the hydrology of the site. Each of these aspects has many facets but can be summarized as follows.
Vegetation – Certain plants have adapted to better handle the stress of frequent saturation or inundation (ponding). The presence and abundance of these hydrophytic (water-loving) plants can help determine where an area shifts from wetland to upland.
Soils – When soils are inundated for extended periods of time there are various processes that occur and leave behind evidence of the water’s influence. By digging soil pits we can look for these indicators and determine if they match known types of wetland soils (hydric soils). These soil pits can also provide insight to the site history, through features like plow pans, old lake beds, or disturbed soils.
Hydrology – As water moves across our landscape it leaves signs of its passing. This can be as apparent as surface water, or as subtle as buttressed tree roots and raised ant hills. By examining the way water interacts with an area we can determine if it is present long enough to qualify for wetland status.