Influences on Wetlands and Lakes in the Adirondack Park of New York State:
A Catalog of Existing and New GIS Data Layers for the
400,000 Hectare Oswegatchie/Black River Watershed



Prepared for the
State Wetlands Protection Program, U.S.Environmental Protection Agency
Grant No. CD992087-01

by the
New York State Adirondack Park Agency, State University of New York at Plattsburgh, Adirondack Lakes Survey Corporation



List of Tables List of Figures List of Appendices
Executive Summary Acknowledgements
page no. in printed report
  1. Background
  2. Objectives
  3. Relationship to Other Studies
  4. Organization of Report


Vegetative Cover
  1. Upland Land Cover Classification (Thematic Mapper)
  2. Wetland Covertypes
  1. Annual Precipitation
  2. Atmospheric Deposition (nitrogen and sulfur)
  3. Oswegatchie/Black Watersheds and ALTM Waters
  1. Bedrock Geology Map
  2. Bedrock ANC Composite Map
  3. Surficial Geology Map
  4. General Soils-Parent Material Composite Map
  5. Elevation with Shaded Relief Map
Landscape Disturbance
  1. 1916 Fire Protection Map
  2. November 1950 Blowdown Map
  3. State Forest Acquisition Map
  4. July 1995 Blowdown (micro-burst storm)
  5. Landscape Disturbance Composite Map
  6. Adirondack Park Agency Land Use and Development Plan Map
  7. 1989 Residential Areas Map
  8. Data Summary


  1. Identification
  2. Sensitivity to Nutrients and Acidity


  1. GIS Analysis


  1. Obtaining Digital Data
  2. CD and Metadata













List of Tables OB2 Contents

List of Figures OB2 Contents

List of Appendices OB2 Contents

Executive Summary OB2 Contents

In 1993, with support from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Wetland Protection (EPA), the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) began a project which created an ArcInfo watershed and wetlands database for the 400,000-hectare Oswegatchie/Black River watershed. This project was accomplished cooperatively with the State University of New York at Plattsburgh and the Adirondack Lakes Survey Corporation in Ray Brook, New York. Completed in 1996, the project identified over 1200 lake watersheds and over 60,000 hectares of wetlands characterized by approximately 200 unique wetland covertypes. In addition, this Phase I effort also began discussion on the potential distinction of "critical" wetlands as those with properties that would make them particularly vulnerable to atmospheric deposition or nutrient additions from watershed development. This project also made possible, for the first time, the integration of an extensive lake water quality database, produced by the Adirondack Lakes Survey Corporation, with these spatial watershed and wetlands data. The final report for the Phase I project was entitled Watershed Protection for Adirondack Wetlands: A Demonstration-Level GIS Characterization of Subcatchments of the Oswegatchie/Black River Watershed (1996).

The success of the Phase I project created a strong interest in acquiring more complete watershed data for the same study area. The second Phase II project, as reported here, was initiated in 1994 and also funded by the EPA. Produced cooperatively with the State University of New York at Plattsburgh and the Adirondack Lakes Survey Corporation, it completes the vegetative covertyping of the non-wetland area in the Oswegatchie/Black study area and it provides digital land use data from classifications of State Forest Preserve lands and the APA Land Use and Development Plan. Additional data layers were created or developed from a number of sources, including: soils; surficial and bedrock geology; 1916 fire history; 1950 and 1995 storm blowdowns; Forest Preserve land acquisition; and meteorological data (atmospheric deposition of nitrogen and sulfur and annual precipitation). The digital catalog produced by this project provides a total of 18 layers that have not before been available in a single, geographically referenced package.

A poster-sized graphic representing the various data layers was produced to serve as an educational guide and quick reference. It includes a matrix of key watershed attributes for the 23 Adirondack Long Term Monitoring waters located in the study area to show how watershed attributes can be used with other types of databases such as lake surface water chemistry.

The issues of surface water acidification and eutrophication are discussed. Using a GIS, interpretations of database layers were produced, including: a soils parent material composite; a bedrock acid neutralizing capacity composite; and a landscape disturbance composite, all of which are included in the digital catalog. A number of GIS analyses was conducted using the composites and other data layers. The relationship of lake acid neutralizing capacity (ANC) to bedrock geology buffering capacities was evaluated in areas of shallow soils. Lakes with low phosphorus nutrient concentrations, which are considered potentially more sensitive to nutrient additions, were evaluated with respect to existing and potential residential development. Both sets of analyses used an integration of lake chemistry data with interpretations of several spatial layers. This assessment is so complex and extensive that it would not have been possible without utilizing a GIS. These data analysis will be extended as part of the EPA Greater Upper Hudson Watershed Project.

The evaluation of peatlands as critical wetlands in the Adirondack Park was continued in the Phase II project. A literature review was conducted and a discussion of both the identification of peatlands and their sensitivity to change from the addition of nutrients and acidity is provided. The literature and Adirondack field experience confirm that devising a field key for separating peatlands from other wetland types is difficult. At this time, we conclude that plant community associations along with some simple chemistry appears to be the best way to characterize these areas. As a related objective, a GIS was used to identify peatlands from the existing soils data layer using organic parent material associations. Results indicate many of the larger wetland polygons, that appeared to be peatlands, were successfully detected, while smaller peatlands were not. Lastly, the literature is divided on peatland sensitivity to atmospheric deposition of acidity and nitrogen as a nutrient. At this point, we cannot draw a conclusion whether Adirondack peatlands are being negatively impacted by the current loads of acidity or nitrogen from atmospheric sources.

In summary, this project has created a catalog of digital watershed data layers that were not previously available. As a result, a framework for identifying key wetland indicators has been created; a system for GIS mapping and retrieval has been organized; a method for advising investigators on research needs is in place; and a protocol for sharing digital information with others has been established.

Acknowledgements OB2 Contents

This project was funded by a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Wetlands Protection State Development Grant in cooperation with the New York State Adirondack Lakes Survey Corporation and the State University of New York at Plattsburgh.

The authors acknowledge with great appreciation the work done by the cooperative effort of the following teams. At the Adirondacks Lakes Survey Corporation and the New York State Biological Survey, our thanks to Rick Constanza, Jim Gallagher, Linda Branch, Tom Dudones, Dale Bath, and Sue Capone.

At the Remote Sensing Laboratory at SUNY Plattsburgh, we thank Kelley Frennier, Jennifer Hensinger, Georgiana Nugent and Craig Cheeseman.

At the Adirondack Park Agency our gratitude is extended to the entire staff, especially to Dan Fitts, Judy Smith, Sue Parker, Brian Grisi, Dave Fleury, Henry Savarie, Avram Primack, and B.J. Forrester. The support of the Adirondack Park Agency Members has also been appreciated.

A number of scholars and academics have contributed directly or supported this effort, including Dr. William Elberty of St. Lawrence University, Dr. Barbara McMartin, and Dr. Philip Whitney of the New York State Geological Survey. The comments and interest of Dr. Lee Herrington and Dr. Helen Whiffen of SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry and of Dr. Charley Driscoll at Syracuse University also were extremely valued.

And finally our appreciation to landowners, both within and outside the Oswegatchie/Black study area, who, by giving us their comments, have added an important critical dimension to this project.

Although the research described in this report has been funded wholly or in part by the United States Environmental Protection Agency under assistance agreement CD992087-01-0 to the New York State Adirondack Park Agency, it has not been subjected to the Environmental Protection Agency's peer and administrative review and therefore may not necessarily reflect the views of the Agency. No official endorsement should be inferred.

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