Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Geography and Geology

First Advisor

Dr. Jeffrey Peake


This study focuses on wetland change in Douglas and Sarpy Counties, Nebraska, between 1981 and 2003. Because previous studies have indicated that urban development generally has a negative effect on wetlands, these two counties were selected because they are among the most rapidly urbanizing counties in Nebraska, a predominantly rural state, in terms of land use. The study examined wetlands over one acre in size in 1981, 1993, in 2003, including freshwater emergent wetlands, freshwater ponds, and lakes. The National Wetlands Inventory (NWI) data were utilized as base data for wetlands present in 1981. Aerial imagery from 1993 and 2003 was used to determine if NWI wetlands were still present in subsequent years into detect new wetlands that emerged by 1993 and 2003. The results were somewhat surprising. According to many previous studies (Frayer et. Al., 1983; Tiner, 1984; Dahl, 2000; Mitsch & Gosselink, 2000; Tiner et. al., 2002), wetlands are often lost to urban development. It was hypothesized that due to Omaha's urban expansion over the past 25 years, that the total number of acres of wetlands in the study area would have decreased. Rather than finding wetland losses in Douglas and Sarpy Counties, the total number of wetlands present increased from 288 to 395 by 1993, But decreased to 362 in 2003. The area covered by wetlands in the study area increased from 2,650 to 3,507 acres between 1981 and 1993, and to 4,244 acres by 2003. This increase resulted, in part, from some of the large reservoir projects and sand pit lakes that had been degraded since 1981, increasing the total acres of wetlands present, but not necessarily increasing the total number present. Instead of the total number of acres of wetlands being adversely affected, it appears that in Douglas and Sarpy Counties, wetlands tend to be maintained and utilized as ponds or lakes in Urban Development, rather than being drained or filled for residential or commercial developments.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of Geography-Geology and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright 2006 Michelle Rerucha.