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Wetlands by Watershed

The following tables provide freshwater wetland area statistics for Rhode Island watersheds. Table 1 (PDF) presents approximate wetlands acreage by ownership category and Table 2 (PDF) presents total acreage of each wetland type within each watershed. These data provide valuable information about the State wetland resource base and may be useful for various planning purposes.

The values in the tables were calculated using the RIGIS wetlands (1988) and open space coverages, including updated Audubon Lands coverage, Private Land Trust Holdings, Open Space Lands, Protected Public Lands, and Wildlife Management Areas. While the RIGIS wetlands coverage does not include all of the Rhode Island's wetlands, the data is adequate for this planning level analysis. Because not all wetlands are delineated this data is not suitable for regulatory purposes.

Table 1 (PDF): Wetland Ownership The vast majority of freshwater wetlands within the State are privately owned. Sixteen percent are protected by Federal, State, or municipal governments or by non governmental conservation organizations such as land trusts, The Nature Conservancy, and the Audubon Society of Rhode Island. The Federal government owns approximately 240 acres of the State's freshwater wetlands (less than 1%). These wetlands are concentrated in coastal watersheds (i.e., the Coastal basin, Narragansett Bay Basin, and Point Judith sub-basin of the Saugatucket River basin). The State owns 60% of all protected wetlands (approximately 10,900 acres); each of Rhode Island's watersheds contains State-owned freshwater wetlands. Freshwater wetlands owned by municipal governments and nongovernmental organizations also are found in each of the watersheds. Municipal governments own approximately 4500 acres of wetlands; nongovernmental organizations own approximately 2400 acres.

Table 2 (PDF): Wetland Types Deciduous forested wetlands (FOB), or forested swamps, are by far the most abundant freshwater water wetland types; they account for over 50% of the State's freshwater wetland area. Forested wetlands and shrub wetlands (SSA) together account for over 70%. Lakes are also abundant and add nearly 16% of the total. At the other extreme, riverine wetlands (ROW, RTW) and fens and bogs (EMB, SSB) are rare; combined they account for less than 4% of the State's total freshwater wetland area. Marshes (EMA) and ponds (POW) fall in the middle; they each account for approximately 4% of the total area. This pattern in the Statewide data is generally maintained when the data are broken down by river basin. Swamps and lakes are often the most abundant wetlands; bogs, fens, and riverine wetlands remain the most scarce.

Text and tables excerpted with minor revisions from a report by Nicholas A. Miller and Francis C. Golet. August 2001: Development of a Statewide Freshwater Wetland Restoration Strategy: Site Identification and Prioritization Methods. Department of Natural Resources Science, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI. Prepared for the RIDEM Office of Water Resources and the Environmental Protection Agency.