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Climate-Driven Shifts in Prairie Pothole Wetlands: Assessing Future Impacts to Critical Waterfowl Habitats

Climate-Driven State Shifts in the Prairie Pothole Region: Assessing Future Impacts Relevant to the Management of Wetland Habitats Critical to Waterfowl
Principal Investigator
David Mushet

Dates

Start Date
2018-07-20
End Date
2020-07-02
Release Date
2018

Summary

The North American Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) is an expansive region that covers parts of five Midwestern states and three Canadian provinces. This region contains millions of wetlands in which waterfowl breed and from which 50-80% of the continent's migratory ducks originate each year. Previous modeling efforts indicated that climate change would result in a shift of suitable waterfowl breeding habitat from the central PPR to the southeastern portion of the region, an area where the majority of wetlands have been drained. If this future scenario were to materialize, a significant restoration effort would be needed in the southeastern PPR to support waterfowl production. However, more recent research has revealed that changes in [...]

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“Prairie Pothole, FWS - Credit”
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Purpose

The North American Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) is an expansive region that covers parts of five Midwestern states and three Canadian provinces. The region contains millions of wetlands that produce between 50-80% of the continent’s waterfowl population each year. Previous modeling efforts indicated that climate change would result in a shift of suitable waterfowl breeding-habitat from the central PPR to a portion of the region in the southeast where the majority of wetlands have been drained. However, more recent research has revealed that changes in climate are influencing these critical wetland habitats in novel ways, and previous modeling results may no longer be valid. Uncertainties associated with the potential for climate-induced habitat loss in the region confound efforts of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Survey and others to make fully informed decisions relevant to the use of limited financial and labor resources. Under previous modeling results, large investments in wetland restoration in the southeastern portion of the PPR, an area were more than ninety percent of the wetlands have been drained, would be required to maintain waterfowl populations. However, results using newly available modeling tools have potential to either validate these earlier results or identify different areas where management investments would result in the greatest returns. We will be using a newly developed wetland simulation model to simulate hydrologic and chemical conditions of prairie-pothole wetlands under various climate-change scenarios. We will link the results of our simulations to the ability of prairie-pothole wetlands to meet the habitat needs of breeding waterfowl. Throughout this effort, we will be working directly with USFWS land managers to ensure that study results will be directly relevant to management efforts focused on providing habitat needed to support the Nation’s abundant waterfowl populations.

Project Extension

parts
typeTechnical Summary
valueEmbedded within the North American Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) are millions of small, depressional wetlands that annually support 50-80% of the continent’s waterfowl production. We recently assembled evidence that demonstrates a change towards a wetter climate that is driving a shift in the state of the region’s wetland ecosystems. This ecological state-shift is primarily the result of altered mechanisms influencing timing and magnitude of surface-water inputs to wetlands, connections to groundwater, and inputs of dissolved salts. As climate influences continue to change in the PPR, it is important to understand the potential of these changes to impact wetland habitats important for waterfowl production. Previous model simulations of prairie-pothole wetlands under future climate scenarios projected decreases in the ability of wetlands to facilitate waterfowl production throughout the majority of the region. Results from these modeling efforts suggested that suitable waterfowl breeding-habitat would be limited mostly to the southeastern portion of the PPR, a portion of the region in which most depressional wetlands (> 90%) have been drained. Thus, if these modeled outcomes materialize, a significant restoration effort would be needed in the southeastern PPR to support waterfowl production. However, the models used in earlier efforts were developed using data from a relatively dry period and did not allow for changing mechanisms influencing surface-water, groundwater and dissolved salt inputs to prairie-pothole wetlands. Land managers from the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) have conducted a separate analysis of wetlands that did not reveal trends in habitat loss in the central PPR as had been projected by the modeling exercises. The overarching objective of our proposed research effort is to improve on our understanding of how future climate changes might impact wetland ecosystems, and waterfowl habitats, of the PPR. To do this, we will use a newly developed Pothole Hydrology Linked Systems Simulator (PHyLiSS) model to estimate wetland ecosystem responses to differing climate-change scenarios. Unlike previous models, the PHyLiSS model allows for shifting hydrological and geochemical mechanisms influencing wetlands. We will compare our results to results from previous modeling and trend analysis efforts to gain a better understanding of restoration and conservation needs. In this effort, we will work directly with USFWS scientists and land managers from the Service’s Habitat and Population Evaluation Team and Chase Lake Wetland Management District in North Dakota to deliver products that can be integrated directly into climate-change adaptation plans for managing waterfowl habitats. We will also present our work to the scientific community through peer-reviewed publications and conference presentations.
projectStatusCompleted

Budget Extension

annualBudgets
year2018
totalFunds155860.0
parts
typeAward Type
valueCOA
typeAward Number
valueC18000483
totalFunds155860.0

Prairie Pothole, FWS - Credit
Prairie Pothole, FWS - Credit

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ScienceBase WMS

Communities

  • National and Regional Climate Adaptation Science Centers
  • North Central CASC

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Additional Information

Identifiers

Type Scheme Key
RegistrationUUID NCCWSC a252a2f9-1396-4e8f-9b97-48d14fd84275
StampID NCCWSC NC18-MO1328

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