Riparian Product Summary
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is the principal
Federal agency that provides information to the public on the
extent and status of the Nation's wetlands. The National Wetlands
Inventory has extensive mapping expertise and knowledge involving
wetland identification and classification, image interpretation,
and digital data capabilities. Reflecting this expertise, the
NWI is regularly asked to provide resource mapping guidance,
and with increasing frequency, is requested to map riparian
areas of the western United States.
The goal of the National Wetlands Inventory is to provide
the citizens of the United States and its Trust Territories
with current geospatially referenced information on the status,
extent, characteristics and functions of wetland, riparian,
deepwater and related aquatic habitats in priority areas to
promote the understanding and conservation of these resources.
With growing interest in riparian habitats in the western
U.S., the Service undertook early riparian mapping projects
for several agencies in Arizona in the early 1990s. Additional
projects were conducted for the National Park Service in Nevada,
and the Bureau of Land Management in Wyoming. Each project
included a variety of definitions, classifications, and mapping
conventions. The Service was regularly asked to map riparian
areas in the western United States, but lacked a standard definition
and conventions to guide the mapping.
In 1997, the National Wetlands Inventory made a commitment
to assemble a committee of habitat and cartographic specialists
to develop the Service’s riparian definition and mapping conventions.
In 2000, western Service Regions began implementation of the
Though riparian digital map data can stand alone, it is recommended
that this data be used in conjunction with the associated Cowardin
wetlands data. This will provide a “complete picture” of the
ecological systems that have been mapped.
Since riparian data collection is a product of more recent
times, a large percentage of the data is available digitally,
though some of the early riparian mapping efforts are still
Digital riparian data can be viewed using the Wetlands
Mapper. Riparian data is also
available for download for the continental United States
in Geodatabase or Shapefile format.
Metadata is described as ‘data about data’. A quilt work
of information about the data exists due to the complexity and
geographic variation of riparian areas, the decades of data
collection and the size of the geographic coverage. ‘Metadata’
for the riparian areas dataset is currently captured at two
levels. Those levels are described below.
Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) describes (geospatial)
metadata as follows:
"A metadata record is a file of information, usually
presented as an XML document, which captures the basic characteristics
of a data or information resource. It represents the who,
what, when, where, why and how of the resource. A
geospatial metadata record includes core library catalog
elements such as Title, Abstract, and Publication Data;
geographic elements such as Geographic Extent and Projection
Information; and database elements such as Attribute Label
Definitions and Attribute Domain Values."
The standard FGDC metadata for the riparian areas layer
and other layers served on the Wetlands Mapper can be found
on the Metadata web page.
Riparian areas mapping is conducted in defined geographic
areas called projects. Imagery is used as the base information
to define the type and location of each riparian area. The
scale, type and date of imagery used in a project is provided
in a pop-up window when a riparian polygon is selected on
the Wetlands Mapper. Investigators that complete a riparian
mapping project record information on the source imagery,
collateral data, inventory method, data limitations, geographic
features, landforms, riparian area types and other specifics
in a project metadata document. This project level metadata
can be found by selecting a riparian polygon on the Wetlands
Mapper and then clicking on the link next to ‘Project
Metadata’ in the pop-up window. Note: Not all areas have
a Project Metadata document.