Wednesday, August 5, 2009

PS 49-92: Digital wetlands database development for Southwestern Pennsylvania

Robert S. Whyte, Chad M. Kauffman, Samuel M. Zehel, and Thomas Mueller. California University of Pennsylvania


Wetlands are a sparse but important feature of a complex southwest Pennsylvania topography. The region’s historic coal industry, agriculture and more recent urban expansion and the resulting ecological effects from these activities make information on natural systems such as wetlands and associated drainage systems increasingly important. Our long-term goal is to provide a unique, interactive digital database and web-mapping service within a geographic information system for public utilization of mapping data for wetland status, function, and associated resource vulnerability assessment. The project consisted of two distinct but interrelated components: (1) application of rapid assessment methodology, modified from the Ohio Rapid Assessment Method (Ohio Environmental Protection Agency), and (2) the development of an online accessible and searchable database of the region’s wetlands. Equipment design and implementation included use of a Microsoft Windows Server (SQL Server 2005; IIS 6.0 - Internet Information Server) with ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Institute) ArcGIS Server 9.2 and ArcGIS Desktop 9.2.


By combining public data with field survey data, we sought to provide the user community with a tool that can be used to compare/contrast wetlands conditions from the past, and into the future. Approximately 165 wetland hydrologic units were assessed in 2007 and 2008. Collected data was combined with constructed map layers (e.g., USGS digital raster graphics quadrangles, Pennsylvania Spatial Data, USFWS National Wetlands Inventory and other external map layers) and linked with the field data (property name, assessment information, and images) into a searchable web interface. Ongoing and subsequent efforts will include improvements to the rapid assessment method, field survey metadata, and searchable interface; to increase data content, and seek to represent the wetlands by polygon instead of points.