Literature on the effects of fire and grazing on the wetlands used by breeding prairie waterfowl is reviewed. Both dabbling and diving ducks and their broods prefer wetlands with openings in the marsh canopy. Decreased use is commonly associated with decreased habitat heterogeneity caused by tall, robust hydrophytes such as Typha spp. and other species adapted to form monotypes in the absence of disturbance. Nearly all previous studies indicate that reductions in height and density of tall, emergent hydrophytes by fire and grazing (unless very intensive) generally benefit breeding waterfowl. Such benefits are an increase in pair density, probably related to increased interspersion of cover and open water which decreases visibility among conspecific pairs, and improvements in their invertebrate food resources that result from increased habitat heterogeneity. Research needs are great because of the drastic changes that have accrued to prairie wetlands through fire suppression, cultivation, and other factors. The physical and biological environments preferred by species of breeding waterfowl during their seasonal and daily activities should be ascertained from future studies in wetland complexes that exist in the highest state of natural preservation. Long-term burning and grazing experiments should follow on specific vegetatively-degraded wetlands judged to be potentially important breeding areas. Seasonality, frequency, and intensity of treatments should be varied and combined and, in addition to measuring the response of the biotic community, the changes in the physical and chemical environment of the wetlands should be monitored to increase our knowledge of causative factors and possible predictive values.
Additional Publication Details
Federal Government Series
Effects of vegetation manipulation on breeding waterfowl in prairie wetlands--a literature review