Estimating coastal wetland gain and losses in Galveston County and Cameron County, Texas, USA.
Additional Document Info
Coastal wetlands serve many important ecological services. One of these important ecological services is their use as storm buffers. Coastal wetlands provide habitat for migratory birds and aquatic species and can improve water quality. In the late 1990s, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) published a study outlining the trends of coastal wetlands from the 1950s to early 1990s. In the present study, wetland gains and losses were calculated for Galveston County and Cameron County, Texas, USA, between 2001 and 2011. Maps from the National Land Cover Database were used to determine wetland areas for the years 2001, 2006, and 2011. ArcGIS was used to compare land cover between the study periods to determine overall wetland losses and gains. A statistical analysis was performed between wetland loss and population data to determine whether increased population density led to a higher loss of wetlands. Our analysis indicates that wetland loss is still occurring, however at a lower rate of loss (0.14%-0.18% annually) than the USFWS study predicted earlier (2.7%). In addition, the majority of wetland losses were due to conversion to upland areas. We found a positive correlation between increased population density and decreased wetland area; however, the trend was not significant. The present study shows how the majority of wetland loss in Galveston and Cameron counties is occurring as a result of increased upland areas. In addition, the present study shows that the use of online mapping systems can be used as a low-cost alternative to assess land changes when field tests are not feasible. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2018;14:120-129. 2017 SETAC.