Large amounts of public and private funds are being invested in policies, programs, and projects to protect, restore, create, enhance, and manage wetlands and riparian habitats in California. Most of these investments have not been evaluated, however, because the ambient conditions of the habitats have not been monitored, or the monitoring methods have been inconsistent, and there is little assurance of data quality. Furthermore, the results of monitoring are not readily available to analysts and decision makers. CRAM is a new approach that promises to provide consistent, scientifically defensible, affordable information about the conditions of wetlands and riparian habitats throughout California.
What is CRAM?
CRAM is a diagnostic tool that two or more trained practitioners can use to assess the condition of a wetland or riparian site over a period of 1-3 hours using visual indicators in the field. The CRAM method expresses condition as a CRAM score. More information is available on interpreting CRAM scores.
CRAM is part of a comprehensive program plan in three levels to monitor the health of wetlands and riparian habitats throughout California:
- Landscape Assessment (Level 1) uses remote sensing data and field surveys to inventory the wetlands and riparian habitats. The California Wetland Inventory and the national Wetlands Inventory are examples of Level 1 assessments.
- Rapid Assessment (Level 2) uses visible field diagnostics and existing data to assess conditions at wetland and riparian sites. CRAM is an example of a Level 2 assessment method.
- Intensive Site Assessment (Level 3) provides quantitative field data to calibrate and validate Level 1 and level 2 methods, and to test hypotheses about the causes of habitat conditions.
Applications of CRAM
CRAM is designed to cost-effectively assess the performance of wetland and riparian restoration projects, mitigation projects, and the status and trends of ambient conditions within watersheds, regions of the State, and for the State as a whole. The use of CRAM for ambient monitoring will, over time, help wetland managers and scientists quantify the relative influence of anthropogenic stress, management actions, and natural disturbance on the spatial and temporal variability in reference conditions. This information can then be used in the design, management, and assessment of projects.
Specific applications of CRAM could include:
- assessments of impacted wetlands to help determine appropriate mitigation measures;
- preliminary assessments of wetland conditions and stressors to determine the need for intensive monitoring;
- evaluation of wetland project performance under the Coastal Zone Management Act, Section 1600 of the California State Fish and Game Code, Sections 401 and 404 of the Clean Water Act, and local government wetland regulations; and
- assessment of restoration or mitigation progress relative to ambient conditions, reference conditions, and expected ecological trajectories.
This website should be cited as:
California Wetlands Monitoring Workgroup (CWMW). 2012. California Rapid Assessment Method (CRAM) for Wetlands and Riparian Areas (website). www.cramwetlands.org