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Tuesday, January 26 • 1:20pm - 1:40pm
Connecting Hydrology, Ecology, Climate, and Land Use To Inform Wetland Conservation and Policy In The Prairie Pothole Region

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AUTHORS: Michael J. Anteau, U.S. Geological Survey; Mark T. Wiltermuth, U.S. Geological Survey; Lisa A. McCauley, South Dakota State University and U.S. Geological Survey; Max Post van der Burg*, U.S. Geological Survey

ABSTRACT: Wetlands of the Prairie Pothole Region host a diverse community of wildlife and support production of 50 to 80 percent of North American ducks. These wetlands face a myriad of threats due to interacting responses to changes in climate and land-use practices. Consolidation drainage is a practice of draining smaller and more temporary wetlands into larger ones in effort to increase tillable acreage for agriculture. This practice poses a potential threat to how wetlands respond to climate and the ecological services that they can provide. We review impacts of consolidation drainage on wetland size and water-level dynamics based on studies that examined wetland responses to climate variability and land use changes from 1937 to present. Our results suggest that consolidation drainage has caused marked increases in water levels and is essentially decoupling water-level dynamics from climate variation. Moreover, past consolidation drainage appears to progressively increase water levels through successive wetting and drying phases. In response to land use and hydrological changes, ecological communities in prairie wetlands are shifting towards those supported by permanent lakes. Based on our results, flood abatement is an ecosystem service that is under threat in the current land-use paradigm. These results call to question whether current tools used for conservation of wetlands are adequate to protect ecosystem services provided by remaining wetlands. We provide a plan for measuring water retention and runoff with respect to changing climate and land use. Lastly, we further suggest that an economic analysis to compare costs of 1) mitigating increased regional flooding, and 2) improving water storage through wetland complex restoration would allow the public and policy makers to make more informed decisions about wetland conservation.

Tuesday January 26, 2016 1:20pm - 1:40pm EST
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