This tier involves work at the largest scale: the landscape. Using remote sensing, landscape level changes, inventories, and land or habitat classifications can be performed. GIS is the primary tool used to investigate these large-scale changes. Landscape data and models, which are based on the analysis of satellite imagery, have revealed that there is an alarming loss and degradation of tidal marshes in the Mid Atlantic.
In 2006, the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary (PDE) identified coastal wetlands status and trends as a top priority for understanding the overall environmental health of the watershed. Until then, information about coastal wetland condition and acreage was limited and not consistent among the three states.
In 2007, PDE worked with the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) to design and begin to implement a multi-level program to assess the health and extent of coastal wetlands in a consistent manner across the Delaware Estuary. Then, in 2008, PDE along with the Barnegat Bay Partnership (BBP) expanded this program to areas outside the Delaware Estuary, referring to it as the Mid Atlantic Coastal Wetland Assessment (MACWA). MACWA supports a comprehensive assessment of coastal wetland condition across the Mid Atlantic region. PDE, BBP, and partners such as the Academy of Natural Science of Drexel University have since worked to implement MACWA as a regional strategy, which is continuously updated and strengthened.
The MACWA is a 4-tier monitoring and assessment program envisioned to provide rigorous, comparable data across all tidal wetlands of the Mid Atlantic, especially those in the Delaware Estuary within Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, as well as Barnegat Bay in New Jersey. It has become a platform through which research and monitoring is conducted and data are mined for various purposes. The programmatic structure of MACWA generally follows EPA national guidance (U.S. EPA 2001 ) (left figure):
1. Remote Sensing: landscape census surveys of extent and condition
2. Ground Truthing: probabilistic on-the-ground sampling across the study region to assess condition and to ground-truth Tier 1 surveys
3. Intensive Studies: studies to examine specific relationships among condition, function, and stressor impacts
3. Station Monitoring: intensive monitoring of condition and function at a networked array of fixed stations