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Changes in weather and climate driven by rising global temperatures are impacting ecosystems around the world. In the northern Great Plains, warming temperatures in combination with altered frequency and severity of wet and dry periods are influencing the regions terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems in new and potentially unique ways. Given the valued services these ecosystems provide to society, NPWRC researchers have initiated efforts to better understand the ultimate effects of climate driven changes on the functioning of natural systems. As changes related to climate change become increasingly pronounced in the coming decades, stresses placed on the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems of the northern Great Plains...
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The gray wolf ( Canis lupus) in the 48 contiguous states has been on the Endangered Species List since 1967, with the only remaining mainland population at that time residing in Minnesota. (A population averaging about 25 has also inhabited Isle Royale National Park, Michigan). Federal research on Minnesota wolves began in 1969 and continues to the present, primarily in the Superior National Forest. This work has resulted in hundreds of scientific articles and books providing new information about wolves and their prey, and has trained numerous biologists and technicians, that have helped foster wolf-recovery and research efforts in many other states, including wolf restoration to Yellowstone National Park. Currently...
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Because American White Pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) and other colonial waterbirds concentrate their nesting activities at a few sites, these species are highly vulnerable to diseases, predation, weather events, collisions with nearby structures, and other disturbances. At the turn of the twentieth century, colonial waterbirds played an important role in the conservation of birds in the United States. This early conservation movement inspired the creation of refuges and conservation laws to protect nesting colonies in the northern Great Plains and throughout the nation. For example, President Theodore Roosevelt issued an executive order in 1908 designating Chase Lake and surrounding habitats in south-central...
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Extraction of oil and gas via unconventional methods (e.g. hydraulic fracturing) is becoming an important aspect of energy production worldwide. This is evidenced by recent expansions of unconventional oil and gas development in some regions of North America, such as the Northern Great Plains of the U.S. and Canada. One striking example is development in the Williston Basin, which includes the U.S. states of Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota, and the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan. The bulk of conventional petroleum drilling and recovery began in the Basin during the 1950s. Since about 2007, there has been renewed interested in the Williston Basin, which has led to the rapid expansion of drilling...
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Of the 15 species of cranes worldwide, two occur in North America. The endangered whooping crane is among the most widely recognized and admired species of birds in North America, due in part to its striking plumage, large size, and widely publicized turnaround from the brink of extinction. The Aransas-Wood Buffalo population, the only wild and self-sustaining flock in existence, is often heralded as a major conservation success story having grown from a low of <20 birds in the early 1940s to >300 cranes currently. The sandhill crane, unlike its endangered larger cousin, is widely distributed across North America. The midcontinent population is best known for the unique annual spectacle of about a half million...
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Grassland birds are any bird species that is adapted to or rely on grassland habitats for all or part of its life cycle, including breeding, migration, or wintering. Although the original mission of Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center focused on research related to waterfowl production and wetland ecology, the Center has had a long history of research on grassland and other birds that has encompassed multiple ecological levels (species, population, community, ecosystem) and spatial and temporal scales. Research and scientific inquiry on resident and migratory birds informally began at Northern Prairie in the early 1960s by Robert E. Stewart, Sr., and Harold A. Kantrud. By the time the Center officially...
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Changes in land use and land cover are influencing terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems worldwide. In many regions, current rates, extents, and intensities of land-use and land-cover change are greater than at any other period in history. In the northern Great Plains of North America, changes in land use/land cover are most often associated with the production of agricultural commodities. In an effort to quantify ecosystem effects associated with land-use/land cover change and to identify mechanisms with potential to minimize effects on ecosystems of importance or to increase the ability of these ecosystems to function within a changing set of land-scape conditions, NPWRC scientists have initiated studies exploring...
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By the early 1900s, deer, elk, moose, bison, and other hoofed mammals—“ungulates”—were eliminated from much of their historic range in the United States. Current distributions and abundance reflect successes and failures of conservation efforts during the last century and pose new management challenges. Restoration and protection are still important concerns for some species in some areas. However, access to hunting and viewing opportunities for a growing human population and effects of overabundant ungulates on vegetation, other wildlife, and human activity are also priorities. Ungulate management is a contentious issue because many stakeholders are invested deeply, both emotionally and materially, in competing...
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Pollinators deliver many ecosystem services, including provisioning biodiversity, supporting ecosystem functions and pollinating agricultural crops. Recent declines in pollinator abundance over past decades are concerning and there has been considerable discussion among congressional, federal, state, university, nonprofit, and private sectors on causal factors and potential solutions. While many factors are likely involved, the focus of the pollinator research at the Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center is habitat. Our work is designed to improve the effectiveness of conservation restoration programs and projects by identifying specific plant species, based on their demonstrated importance to honey bees and...
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The Prairie Pothole Region in the northern Great Plains is a mosaic of millions of wetlands and small lakes embedded within prairie grasslands and croplands. Management of these land types, whether in cropland or grasslands, can have a tremendous impact on carbon and nitrogen cycling of wetland and upland areas alike. Sound agricultural practices result in optimal soil conditions, increased soil fertility, and decreased soil carbon losses, which ultimately translate to increases in crop production for food, fuel and fiber. In addition, proper land management can lead to a reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) and non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions (like methane and nitrous oxide), air pollution, and eutrophication, as...
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Field crews from Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center from 1991-1993 in Stutsman County, North Dakota and Pope and Stevens Counties, Minnesota, gathered nest success and fledgling data from nests found within Conservation Reserve Program fields and Waterfowl Production Areas. This dataset includes nesting observations of bird species found within these two field types. The dataset includes genus and species, vegetation height, distance to edge and perch, host nesting and fledgling variables, and parasitic nesting and fledgling variables.
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The Federal listing status of interior least terns (Sternula antillarum, endangered; hereafter “terns”) and Northern Great Plains piping plovers (Charadrius melodus, threatened; hereafter “plovers”) has motivated substantial work to understand ecological relationships between these birds and their nesting habitats. Both species build nests on shoreline and sandbar habitat throughout the Northern Great Plains. Habitat located within the Missouri River system supports nesting populations and is an important component of recovery efforts for both species. Since 2005, NPWRC research on terns and plovers has broadly focused on describing the demographics of populations (i.e. estimating reproductive rates, survival rates,...
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“Vegetation is one of the major geographical features of almost all parts of the earth’s surface. … In major ecosystems, at least, it is an essential component, as it includes the primary production apparatus that fuels the system by capture of solar energy. Practically every terrestrial view that man has of his environment, outside his own constructions, … is almost sure to be primarily of vegetation. It is the most obvious surface feature of the land. On it depends the existence of all animal life. Most human activities deal in some respect with vegetation or its products. In other words, vegetation is an inescapable fact of life. As such, it is one of the most important of all subjects for investigation...
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Managing invasive species neatly fits within the rubric of a “wicked problem”, with outcomes contingent on where and when a species occurs, socioeconomic factors that vary among stakeholders, and rarely a single answer that satisfies all concerned. Scientists at NPWRC work closely with resource managers to clarify effects invasive species have on native species and ecosystems so that managers may prioritize their efforts and focus on those invasive species posing the greatest threat. Methods of control and their implications for non-target species are also a focus of research at NPWRC. As invasive species increasingly fill niches and interact mutualistically with native species, for example as resources for native...
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The Prairie Pothole Region is the most important breeding area in North America for many species of ducks. The region supports more than 22 million breeding ducks each year, representing about 50% of the total estimated surveyed duck population of North America. The region’s wetlands also provide critical resting habitat and food resources for many more waterfowl that migrate through the area during spring and fall. Invertebrate and plant resources provided by the region’s productive wetlands play a critical role in duck productivity, while upland habitat, particularly grasslands, provide nesting habitat. Conversion to agricultural, wetland drainage, and more recently oil and gas development, have resulted in...
With a focus on the prairie pothole landscape, NPWRC scientists have worked to develop, parameterize, and validate multiple ecological models needed to facilitate the quantification of a wide array of goods and services provided by naturally functioning prairie ecosystems (e.g., carbon sequestration, wildlife habitat, flood water storage, water quality improvement, crop pollination). The models being used by NPWRC scientists facilitate explorations into how the provisioning of ecosystem goods and services valued by society might be influenced by future changes in climate and land-use. Much of the “Integrated Landscape Modeling” work being conducted at NPWRC has been accomplished through close collaborations with...
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Wetland drainage has been a chronic problem affecting ecosystems in the Prairie Pothole Region since agriculture entered the region and a perception of wetlands and wastelands developed. However, much of the region is hydrologically closed and therefore water drained from wetlands occurring at higher topographic positions on a landscape often accumulate in down-gradient wetlands. Thus, water from many wetland basins becomes "consolidated" into a smaller number of wetlands at lower elevations, increasing the quantity and affecting the quality of water in these down-gradient wetlands. Additionally, the rapid expansion of agricultural subsurface tile drainage in the Prairie Pothole Region has potential to also alter...
We are living in a period of unprecedented global change where even the most remote areas of the planet are influenced by the activities of man. Modern landscapes have been highly modified to accommodate a growing human population that is forecast to peak at 9.1 billion by 2050. Over this past century, human reliance on goods and services from ecosystems has greatly increased and sustainability of our modern and intensively managed ecosystems has been a topic of serious national and international concern. Not surprisingly, sustainability of ecosystems has become an explicitly stated goal of many agencies and, in some cases, has been legislatively mandated to ensure the provisioning of resources for future generations....
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map background search result map search result map 1-Resources Density and Fledging Success Data from Conservation Reserve Program Fields in North Dakota and Minnesota, 1991-1993 Density and Fledging Success Data from Conservation Reserve Program Fields in North Dakota and Minnesota, 1991-1993