We describe a study designed to evaluate the performance of wetland condition indicators of the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) of the north central United States. Basin and landscape scale indicators were tested in 1992 and 1993 to determine their ability to discriminate between the influences of grassland dominated and cropland dominated landscapes in the PPR. Paired plots were selected from each of the major regions of the PPR. Among the landscape scale indicators tested, those most capable of distinguishing between the two landscapes were: 1) frequency of drained wetland basins, 2) total length of drainage ditch per plot, 3) amount of exposed soil in the upland subject to erosion, 4) indices of change in area of wetland covered by water, and 5) number of breeding duck pairs. Basin scale indicators including soil phosphorus concentrations and invertebrate taxa richness showed some promise; however, plant species richness was the only statistically significant basin scale indicator distinguishing grassland dominated from cropland dominated landscapes. Although our study found a number of promising candidate indicators, one of our conclusions is that basin scale indicators present a number of implementation problems, including: skill level requirements, site access denials, and recession of site access by landowners. Alternatively, we suggest that the use of landscape indicators based on remote sensing can be an effective means of assessing wetland integrity.
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Indicators of wetland condition for the Prairie Pothole Region of the United States