Availability of aquatic invertebrates on migration and breeding areas influences recruitment of ducks and shorebirds. In wetlands of Prairie Pothole Region (PPR), aquatic invertebrate production primarily is driven by interannual fluctuations of water levels in response to wet-dry cycles in climate. However, this understanding comes from studying basins that are minimally impacted by agricultural landscape modifications. In the past 100–150 years, a large proportion of wetlands within the PPR have been altered; often water was drained from smaller to larger wetlands at lower elevations creating consolidated, interconnected basins. Here I present a case study and I hypothesize that large basins receiving inflow from consolidation drainage have reduced water-level fluctuations in response to climate cycles than those in undrained landscapes, resulting in relatively stable wetlands that have lower densities of invertebrate forage for ducks and shorebirds and also less foraging habitat, especially for shorebirds. Furthermore, stable water-levels and interconnected basins may favor introduced or invasive species (e.g., cattail [Typha spp.] or fish) because native communities "evolved" in a dynamic and isolated system. Accordingly, understanding interactions between water-level fluctuations and landscape modifications is a prerequisite step to modeling effects of climate change on wetland hydrology and productivity and concomitant recruitment of waterbirds.
Additional publication details
Do interactions of land use and climate affect productivity of waterbirds and prairie-pothole wetlands?