The Alaska National Wetlands Inventory (AK NWI) is responsible
for mapping Alaska’s wetland habitats. Guided by our overall
national strategy, the AK NWI conducts strategic mapping of high
priority wetland habitats, carries out status and trends analyses
of wetlands and other aquatic habitats, and identifies and assesses
threats to aquatic habitats at risk. Currently, 43 percent of Alaska
has been mapped, and 36 percent has been digitized.
Alaska's Wetland Characteristics
Most regions of Alaska have a land surface that includes extensive
areas of wetlands. Treeless expanses of moist and wet tundra underlain
by permafrost occur in the northern and western portions. Interior
Alaska contains millions of acres of black spruce muskeg and floodplain
wetlands dominated by deciduous shrubs and emergents. Shrub and
herbaceous bogs are a predominant feature of the landscape in southcentral
and southeast Alaska. In mountainous areas such as the Brooks or
Alaska Ranges, wetlands have developed in drainages and on vegetated
slopes. Some of the nation’s most extensive complexes of salt
marshes and mud flats occur along the coasts of the Beaufort, Chukchi,
and Bering Seas, and the Gulf of Alaska.
Wetlands are abundant in the valleys and basins associated with
large river systems including the Yukon, Kuskokwim, Porcupine, Tanana,
and Koyukuk Rivers. Significant wetland areas also occur on the
major river deltas in Alaska. The Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, one of
the world’s largest coastal deltaic formations, supports a
variety of wetland types including wet tundra, grassy sloughs, shrub
swamps, ponds and brackish marsh. Other major deltas in Alaska that
are predominantly wetland are the Colville River Delta on the Beaufort
Sea coast, the Copper River Delta in southcentral Alaska, and the
Stikine River Delta in the southeast region.
Alaska Status & Trends
The report Status of Alaska Wetlands (Hall, et al.
1994) presents results of a study on the status of wetlands and
deepwater habitats. The objective of the study was to develop
statistical estimates of the area-wide extent of wetland and deepwater
habitat categories for Alaska. It also provides information on
the amounts of wetland areas that are managed by Federal agencies,
the State of Alaska, Native corporations and others. The AK NWI
also develops data on wetland losses and changes for local areas
including population centers. Wetland trends information has been
produced for the cities of Anchorage and Juneau, as well as the
Palmer/Wasilla area, and the Kenai River watershed. An additional
wetland trend study for Fairbanks is presently in production.
This type of information is important for reviewing the effectiveness
of existing programs and policies that affect wetlands, for identifying
national or regional land-use problems, and for monitoring the
rate of wetland losses.