Hourly time-series salinity and water-level data are collected at all stations within the Coastwide Reference Monitoring System (CRMS) network across coastal Louisiana. These data, in addition to vegetation and soils data collected as part of CRMS, are used to develop a suite of metrics and indices to assess wetland condition in coastal Louisiana. This document addresses the primary objectives of the CRMS hydrologic analytical team, which were to (1) adopt standard time-series analytical techniques that could effectively assess spatial and temporal variability in hydrologic characteristics across the Louisiana coastal zone on site, project, basin, and coastwide scales and (2) develop and apply an index based on wetland hydrology that can describe the suitability of local hydrology in the context of maximizing the productivity of wetland plant communities. Approaches to quantifying tidal variability (least squares harmonic analysis) and partitioning variability of time-series data to various time scales (spectral analysis) are presented. The relation between marsh elevation and the tidal frame of a given hydrograph is described. A hydrologic index that integrates water-level and salinity data, which are collected hourly, with vegetation data that are collected annually is developed. To demonstrate its utility, the hydrologic index is applied to 173 CRMS sites across the coast, and variability in index scores across marsh vegetation types (fresh, intermediate, brackish, and saline) is assessed. The index is also applied to 11 sites located in three Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act projects, and the ability of the index to convey temporal hydrologic variability in response to climatic stressors and restoration measures, as well as the effect that this community may have on wetland plant productivity, is illustrated.
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USGS Numbered Series
Hydrologic index development and application to selected Coastwide Reference Monitoring System sites and Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act projects