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The wetness index provides some understanding of the flow of water across the topography of a given area. When rain falls within a given watershed, the precipitation will follow a general pattern of moving from high elevations to the lowest point in the watershed. Many things can impact this progress, such as karst or porous rock that can filter water into local aquifers or dams designed to capture and store water for future use. The wetness index helps to understand the journey water takes as it moves across the landscape. Flowing water can spread across low lying lands to create wetlands or to intermittent streams that may only contain stream flow during rain events.
The low lying areas that pond or allow for flood waters to be stored during significant rain events are home to diverse species of plants. The ability of these landscapes to help control excess water levels ensure a resilient landscape for the local community as well by providing added protection from flooding. This species rich landscape provides benefits for the local community as well. Some of the ecosystem services provided by these resilient landscapes include protecting water quality and bird viewing habitats.
References: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 4. National Ecological Framework. Richardson, John. 2013.
Dataset | http://geoplatform1.epa.gov/nef/