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New Zealand Wetlands Monitoring and Assessment Kit (WETMAK)

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Developer

NZ Landcare Trust

Latest documentation

2014

Designed for use in

New Zealand

Ongoing

Yes

Assessment purpose

Condition, Management effectiveness, Processes and components

Assessment criteria

Physical and chemical, Flora, Fauna

Method type

Field, desktop

Timescale

Rapid-short term

Scale

Site/habitat

Wetland system

Estuarine, Lacustrine, Palustrine, Riverine

Description and method logic

Method purpose

WETMAK is an online resource aimed at community groups working on wetland restoration projects in New Zealand. It provides advice on useful assessment and monitoring techniques and methods of assessing the impact of restoration work (Denyer and Peters 2014).

Summary

WETMAK is made up of the following seven independent modules, which allow the user to choose the module or modules most relevant to their site, restoration program, skills and budget.
1. Creating a management map
2. Photopoints
3. Wetland 'Warrant of Fitness' (WOF) check
4. Mapping wetland vegetation
5. Weed survey
6. Vegetation plots
7. Animal pest monitoring (Denyer and Peters 2014).

Most modules have a set of indicators or measures, including Māori indicators, which are types of information that are easy to collect and inform the assessment (Denyer and Peters 2014).

WETMAK is informed by the 'Handbook for Monitoring Wetland Condition' (Clarkson et al. 2004). It is a less technical approach for community (e.g. laboratory analyses not required), and hence less expensive.

Method logic

A wetland monitoring 'mini plan' template is used to clarify which modules are relevant to the restoration objectives and to plan and document monitoring activities for a given site. A wetland monitoring report template is used to systematically record and interpret results. 
Each module includes information on relative cost/skill levels, equipment needs, suitable indicators, step by step data collection instructions, and guidance on data analysis and reporting  to assess and monitor the wetland (Denyer and Peters 2014).

Module 1, Creating a management map, is designed to show the features of interest to volunteers/staff working in the field, such as monitoring plots and hazards, and to assist with planning and restoration activities.

Module 2, Photopoints, is a simple visual record of change at the site, which is designed to show how much has been achieved over time. It is useful for demonstrating progress to volunteers and funders.

Module 3, Wetland 'Warrant of Fitness' (WOF) check, is a general ‘health’ check based on a range of indicators used to assess a) pressures in the catchment and b) condition within, and around the perimeter of  the wetland. The assessment is undertaken by viewing the site from an overlook (or air /drone photo) walking around the wetland edge, and (if safe) traversing the wetland (e.g. from a boardwalk). Monitoring is undertaken by repeating the assessment at the same time of year, every five years

Module 4, Mapping wetland vegetation, is a big-picture birds-eye view of the site, which is designed to capture incremental change in vegetation cover over time, and to assist with planning monitoring and restoration activities (including showing distribution of undesirable canopy species).

Module 5, Weed survey, is designed to detect weeds before they take hold, and/or to measure success of weed control works over time. Data from this module informs the weed indicator scores in the WOF (module 3).

Module 6, Vegetation plots, is a detailed study of the plant cover, height and species diversity including the proportion of native and exotic plants. Data from this module informs the vegetation indicator scores in the WOF (module 3).

Module 7, Animal pest monitoring, uses detection devices to record the presence of pest animals (e.g. footprints or teeth marks) to assess the need for, and success of, pest control operations. Data from this module informs the pest indicator scores in the WOF (module 3).

Criteria groupings of the method

The WOF (module 3) includes the following pressure indicators for the catchment with a score from 0 (no change/threat) to 5 (major change/threat):
  • Modifications to catchment hydrology.
  • Water quality in the catchment.
  • Mammalian predators in the catchment including domestic predators (e.g. cats and dogs).
  • Introduced herbivores that may pose a risk to the wetland (e.g. farmed or feral goats, pigs, deer, cattle, horses, sheep, alpacas, rabbits, pest fish and birds such as geese).
  • Key undesirable plant species in the catchment.
  • Percentage catchment in introduced vegetation.
  • Wetland isolation (Denyer and Peters 2014).

The WOF (module 3) includes five indicators for condition of the wetland perimeter (to identify threats such as drainage, cattle trespass that can be assessed safely, without entering the wetland):
  • State of stock access: presence/ condition of barriers such as fences
  • State of weeds: dominance of exotic species within each vegetation tier within the first few metres of the edge
  • Canopy dieback: extent of dieback potentially related to edge effects/ adjacent landuse activities
  • Buffer: proportion of wetland surrounded by indigenous vegetation buffer
  • Drains: presence/ potential effects of perimeter drains (Denyer and Peters 2014).

The WOF (module 3) includes the following condition indicators for the site/wetland with a score from 0 (very large change from the likely original state) to 5 (no change from the likely original state):
  • Change in hydrology: Impact of artificial structures; Water table depth; Dry-land plant invasion.
  • Change in water/soil quality or state (physico-chemical parameters): Degree of sedimentation/erosion; Nutrient levels; von Post humification index (degree of decomposition of dead plant matter, for bogs only).
  • Change in wetland ecosystem intactness: Loss in area of original wetland; Recent vegetation damage/clearance including fire; Hydrological connectivity barriers.
  • Change in amount of animal damage and harvest by humans: Damage by grazing and browsing animals (e.g. cattle, rabbits, possums); Damage by introduced predators; Harvesting of native biota.
  • Change in dominance of native plants: Introduced plant canopy cover; Introduced plant understorey cover (Denyer and Peters 2014).

The Mapping wetland vegetation module indicators utilise a standardised classification system developed Atkinson (1984) comprising measures of abundance (dominant species by cover), relative height, percent cover class and vegetation structure (trees, shrubs, sedges, grasses, tussocks, ferns, forest, herbs, moss). The Weed survey module indicators include weed species, density of weed species, maximum height, presence of seedlings/new infestations. The Vegetation plot module indicators include native and exotic plant species composition, plant height and plant percent cover. The Animal pest monitoring module indicators include footprints, teeth marks and carcasses of small mammals (Denyer and Peters 2014).

Data required

Desktop data to inform the survey includes:
  • Aerial imagery.
  • Lists of native plant, fish, bird, insects and other species.
  • Lists of non-native species.
  • A map of each type of habitat: open water, each vegetation type.
  • Information on the water source, type and levels.
  • Extent of the wetland subject to pressures such as stock damage, fire damage or vegetation clearance.
  • Photographs of a range of vegetation types from fixed photopoints (Denyer and Peters 2014).

Field data includes a range of project- and module-based indicators and measurables.

Resources required

Expertise required

Each module has its own level and type of skill needed. The kit is designed to allow groups to select modules suited to their resources, and to add new modules over time. Combined over the 6 modules, skills needed are:
  • field experience, navigation and safety,
  • use of GPS and digital camera,
  • map/aerial photo reading,
  • species identification skills,
  • basic computer skills (Word/ Excel/internet),
  • basic data analysis and making graphs, and
  • data management and storage (Denyer and Peters 2014).

Materials required

WETMAK methodology and data sheets, which are available online, and basic field equipment such as a GPS and digital camera. Training days, instructional videos and background material for the technical modules are also available.

Method outputs

Outputs

Outputs are project-dependent. Each of the indicators is measurable, and guidelines are provided for data analysis and reporting in each module (e.g. raw data, tables, graphs, description of pressures and condition).

Uses

  • Assess and monitor wetland pressures and condition (health) and on-ground rehabilitation works.
  • To evaluate the effectiveness of existing programs, including for reporting to funders.
  • To identify works for future programs.

Criteria by category

    Physical and chemical

    • Hydrological modification
      • Artificial structures
      • Connectivity/isolation
      • Dry-land (terrestrial) plants
      • Water table depth
    • Naturalness
      • Barriers
      • Damage by other introduced species
      • Grazing damage
      • Harvesting of wetland biota
      • Loss of wetland area
      • Loss of wetland vegetation
    • Soil/sediment
      • Humification (decomposition of dead plant matter)
      • Sedimentation/erosion
    • Water quality
      • Nutrient levels

    Flora

    • Community composition
      • Abundance
      • Exotic plant cover/proportion
      • Height
      • Percent cover
      • Structure

    Fauna

    • Exotic fauna
      • Presence/absence/relative abundance over time

Review

Recommended user

Designed for community groups working on wetland restoration projects.

Strengths

  • Easy to use.
  • Flexible and adaptable to a range of restoration projects.
  • Inexpensive as does not required elaborate equipment, databases or software.
  • Modular can be more sophisticated if needed.
  • Templates provided to improve planning and reporting consistency within and among groups.
  • Supporting videos for some modules.

Limitations

  • Criteria are largely qualitative.
  • Some modules require advanced skills (e.g. plant identification).
  • Weightings can be adjusted to give prejudicial results, reducing objectivity.

Case studies

(not documented)

Links


References

  1. Denyer, K & Peters, M (2014), Wetmak: Wetlands Monitoring and Assessment Kit, NZ Landcare Trust.
  2. Clarkson, BR, Sorrell, BK, Reeves, PN, Champion, PD, Partridge, TR & Clarkson, BD (2004), Handbook for Monitoring Wetland Condition. Coordinated Monitoring of New Zealand Wetlands. A Ministry for the Environment Sustainable Management Fund Project (5105).. [online], Landcare Research, Hamilton, New Zealand National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, and the University of Waikato., New Zealand. Available at: https://datastore.landcareresearch.co.nz/is/dataset/handbook-for-monitoring-wetland-condition.

Last updated: 1 September 2020

This page should be cited as:

Department of Environment and Science, Queensland (2020) New Zealand Wetlands Monitoring and Assessment Kit (WETMAK), WetlandInfo website, accessed 13 May 2021. Available at: https://wetlandinfo.des.qld.gov.au/wetlands/resources/tools/assessment-search-tool/new-zealand-wetlands-monitoring-and-assessment-kit-wetmak/

Queensland Government
WetlandInfo   —   Department of Environment and Science