The Recognition Wetlands Deserve!

Bark volunteers Tyler Gass and Courtney Knudson help install vegetation plots and water level data loggers in the extensive wetland complex surrounding Little Crater Lake in Mt. Hood National Forest, September 2021.

Did you know that there are many different kinds of wetlands? On Mt. Hood, we’ve visited cedar swamps, peat moss fens, sedge-dominated marshes, and wet meadows lush with wildflowers from camas to king’s gentian. Some of these wetlands are located where beaver dams capture and slow the flow of surface water, while others have developed where groundwater seeps from below hillsides or springs. Regardless of how they’re formed and maintained, all wetlands are places on the landscape where water collects, albeit to different extents and depths and for different periods of time.

Now that autumn is approaching, sedges and rushes are golden brown, seeds rattle in dry flower heads, and water levels in channels and ponds have dropped to seasonal lows in Mt. Hood’s wetlands. Thanks to a great network of supporters, including Bark volunteers and staff, students and researchers from Portland State University, Forest Service personnel, and folks with the Clackamas River Water Providers, we’ve been watching how wetlands contribute to a Drinking Water Source Area that benefits 300,000 Oregonians. To date, we’ve collected up to 750 days’ worth of ground and surface water level data from a dozen wetlands—and we’d like to do more! 

Help grow our wetland water monitoring network!

One of the goals of our Clackamas Wetland and Beaver Restoration Project is to estimate how much surface water is stored by wetlands of different types and to track the timing of when that water is released to small tributary channels that link to streams lower in the watershed and eventually the Clackamas River. While there are extensive networks of sensors and gauges that monitor the depth, rate and quality of flowing waters (e.g., the USGS’s water data), ecosystems like wetlands with slow-moving or standing water have generally not received widespread, systematic attention unless they’re associated with large lakes or reservoirs. You can help fill these data gaps for Mt. Hood!  

Join us in the field or donate here in recognition of World Water Monitoring Day.

Let’s continue to encourage Mt. Hood National Forest to turn its attention from resource extraction to habitat protection and restoration. By monitoring wetland water levels we’ll be able to identify sites where restoration activities can have the greatest impact on water storage. Keeping more water on the mountain for longer during our current and future drought seasons will create benefits that ripple downstream for both human and non-human communities.

I hope to see you mucking about in a wetland soon,

Kyla Zaret, Wetland Ecologist, Portland State University