Agate Desert Vernal Pool: Final Draft Functional Assessment Methodology

The primary goal of this methodology (hereafter, Method) is to provide a scientifically based, rapid, and consistently applicable tool to comparatively assess functions and values of vernal pool wetlands in the Agate Desert area of White City, Jackson County, Oregon (Figure 1). The primary objective of the Method is to generate results that will assist in guiding wetland planning decisions for balanced conservation and development in the area. This will be done by discerning comparative biological, ecological and physical qualities of existing vernal pool wetland resources including the consideration of habitat for locally occurring sensitive plant and animal species. Societially-based ‘values’ associated with the use of vernal pool wetlands are also addressed (e.g., recreation).

Although this method was developed for particular use as a required assessment component of the WCPI project, future use is anticipated within the Agate Desert area for (1) vernal pool wetlands potentially not inventoried by the WCPI, or (2) potential future reassessment of vernal pools. The Method may also be adapted for use in assessing vernal pool wetlands in other regions, with attention to the necessity of regionally calibrating several indicators contained within this Method. While regional differences are likely to occur (e.g., species composition, seasonality of rainfall, variation in the extent of surface and subsurface hydrology, range of vernal pool depths), the indicators used to assess functions and values of vernal pools are believed to reflect the structural and biological characteristics of vernal pool landscapes applicable across a variety of regions. The selected indicators can be characterized rapidly, thus facilitating a commitment to a rapid assessment procedure.