Evaluation of a wetland classification system devised for management in a region with a high cover of peatlands: an example from the Cook Inlet Basin, Alaska

Michael Gracz, Paul H. Glaser

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7 Scopus citations


Several wetland classification schemes are now commonly used to describe wetlands in the contiguous United States to meet local, regional, and national regulatory requirements. However, these established systems have proven to be insufficient to meet the needs of land managers in Alaska. The wetlands of this northern region are predominantly peatlands, which are not adequately treated by the nationally-used systems, which have few, if any, peatland classes. A new system was therefore devised to classify wetlands in the rapidly urbanizing Cook Inlet Basin of southcentral Alaska, USA. The Cook Inlet Classification (CIC) is based on seven geomorphic and six hydrologic components that incorporate the environmental gradients responsible for the primary sources of variation in peatland ecosystems. The geomorphic and hydrologic components have the added advantage of being detectable on remote sensing imagery, which facilitates regional mapping across large tracts of inaccessible terrain. Three different quantitative measures were used to evaluate the robustness and performance of the CIC classes relative to that of other commonly used systems in the contiguous United States. The high within-group similarity of the classes identified by the CIC was clearly superior to that of the other systems, demonstrating the need for improved wetland classification systems specifically devised for regions with a high cover of peatlands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)87-104
Number of pages18
JournalWetlands Ecology and Management
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Mapping was supported by grants from United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Fish & Wildlife Service, and the Army Corps of Engineers. EPA agreement 83482601 and a Summer Fellowship from the Conservation Biology Program at the University of Minnesota supported additional data collection and the analysis. Additional funding was provided by the U.S. National Science Foundation (Award No. 0628647). Frankie Barker, John DeLapp, Valerie Hansen, Matt LaCroix, Mary Moffett, Phil North, Karyn Noyes, Mary Price, Lisa Rabbe, Dick Reger, Bill Rice, Robert Ruffner, Robert Shavelson, Scott Stewart, Gerald Tande, and Doug VanPatten provided technical assistance and support. We also thank Ned Euliss and two anonymous reviewers for their comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (Award #83482601), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. National Science Foundation (Award #0628647), University of Minnesota Conservation Biology Program Summer Fellowship.


  • Boreal peatlands
  • Cook Inlet
  • Hydrogeomorphic
  • Multi-response permutation procedure
  • Southcentral Alaska
  • Wetland classification
  • Wetland functions


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