iWetland: A Community Science Platform for Monitoring Wetland Water Levels
Taylor D. North,
Paul A. Moore,
Chantel E. Markle,
Hope C. A. Freeman,
Danielle T. Hudson,
J. M. Waddington
Citizen Science: Theory and Practice, Volume 8, Issue 1
iWetland is a community science wetland water level monitoring platform developed by the McMaster Ecohydrology Lab and tested from 2016 to 2019 in wetlands located east of Georgian Bay, Ontario, Canada. The goal of iWetland is to engage community members in wetland science while collecting data to better understand the spatiotemporal variability in water level patterns of wetlands. We installed 24 iWetland water level monitoring stations in popular hiking and camping areas where visitors can text the water level of the wetland to an online database that automatically collates the data. Here, we share our approach for developing the iWetland community science platform and its importance for monitoring all types of wetland ecosystems. From 2016 through 2019, almost 2,000 individuals recorded more than 2,600 water table measurements. The iWetland platform successfully collected accurate water table data for 24 wetlands. We discuss the successes and shortcomings of the community science platform with respect to data collection, community engagement, and participation. We found that forming mutually beneficial partnerships with community groups paired with strong outreach presence were key to the success of this community science platform. Finally, we recommend that those interested in adopting the iWetland platform in their community partner with community groups, recognize participant contributions, identify accessible sites, and host outreach activities.
Abstract Peatlands typically act as carbon sinks, however, increasing wildfire severity and annual area burned may challenge this carbon sink status. Whilst most peat resistance to wildfire and drought research is based on deep peatlands that rarely lose their water table below the peat profile, shallow peatlands and peat deposits may be most vulnerable to high peat burn severity and extensive carbon loss. To examine the role of pre-fire peat depth on peat burn severity, we measured the depth of burn (DOB) in peat of varying depths (0.1–1.6 m) within a rock barrens landscape. We found that DOB (0–0.4 m) decreased with increasing pre-fire peat depth, and that there was a strong correlation between the percent of the profile that burned and pre-fire peat depth. Breakpoint analysis indicates a threshold depth of 0.66 m where deeper peat deposits experienced little impact of wildfire, whereas shallower peat typically experienced high peat burn severity (median percent burned = 2.2 and 65.1, respectively). This threshold also corresponded to the loss of the water table in some nearby unburned peatlands, where water table drawdown rates were greater in shallower peat. We suggest that peat depth may control peat burn severity through feedbacks that regulate water table drawdown. As such, we argue that the identification of a critical peat depth threshold could have important implications for wildfire management and peatland restoration aiming to protect vulnerable carbon stores.