The primary objective of the Classification of Wetlands and Deepwater Habitats of the United States, as originally drafted by Cowardin et al. (1979:3), was “to impose boundaries on natural ecosystems for the purposes of inventory, evaluation, and management.” The FGDC Wetlands Classification Standard (WCS) provides minimum requirements and guidelines for classification of both wetlands and deepwater habitats that are consistent with the FGDC Wetlands Mapping Standard (FGDC-STD-015-2009), https://www.fgdc.gov/standards/projects/FGDC-standards-projects/wetlands-mapping/index_html.
Any new,updated, or revised mapping of wetlands or deepwater habitats shall conform to the FGDC Wetlands Classification Standard. More general mapping activities may incorporate wetlands data from the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI), rather than conducting new wetlands classification (see further information in the FGDC Wetlands Mapping Standard).
The FGDC Wetlands Classification Standard is intended for all Federal or federally-funded wetlands inventory mapping including those activities conducted by Federal agencies, states, and federally-recognized tribal entities, non-governmental organizations, universities, and others. Specifically, if Federal funding is used in support of wetlands inventory mapping activities, then use of this Standard is mandatory. The adoption of this Standard for all other wetlands inventory mapping efforts (non-federally funded) is strongly encouraged to maintain and expand wetlands data.
The Classification of Wetlands and Deepwater Habitats of the United States was developed by wetland ecologists, with the assistance of many private individuals and organizations and local, state, and Federal agencies. It was designed for use over a broad geographic area—all U.S. States and Territories—by individuals and organizations with varied interests and objectives.
The definition of wetland in this classification delimits the biological extent of wetland, as influenced by substrate properties and the hydrologic characteristics at each site. This robust classification system has been successfully applied throughout the United States and its Territories since the mid-1970s,making it a truly national system.
The revised FGDC Wetlands Classification Standard has been formatted to be consistent with more recently endorsed FGDC Standards. The text has been edited, refined,clarified, and rewritten as necessary. Some portions were rewritten because the scientific foundation upon which the original classification (Cowardin et al. 1979) was developed has advanced. Changes were thoroughly vetted in the wetlands community.
For more information
- Visit the page on the Wetlands Classification Standard, https://www.fgdc.gov/standards/projects/FGDC-standards-projects/wetlands/index_html
- Download the Wetlands Classification Standard, Edition 2, https://www.fgdc.gov/standards/projects/FGDC-standards-projects/wetlands/nvcs-2013
- Address technical questions to Bill Wilen, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bill_Wilen@fws.gov, 703-358-2278