Orchid Meadows is a long-term wetland research and monitoring site on the Coteau des Prairie in extreme east-central South Dakota, USA. It is a 65-ha Waterfowl Production Area with numerous temporary, seasonal, and semi-permanent wetlands. Ground water and surface water have been monitored at the site from 1987 to 1989 and from 1993 to the present. Vegetation has been monitored since 1993. The monitoring record includes two nearly back-to-back weather extremes: a drought in the late 1980s and a deluge in the early- to mid-1990s. Wetlands differed sharply in water levels between 3-yr dry and wet periods. For example, the time of inundation ranged among semi-permanent wetlands from 13 to 71 percent during the dry years to 100 percent during the wet years, while for seasonal wetlands, it was 0-29 percent and 46-100 percent, respectively, during dry and wet periods. Temporary wetlands had no surface water during the dry period but had standing water 0-67 percent of the time during the deluge years. The highest ground-water levels during the dry period were lower than most levels during the wet period. The difference in the water-table elevations of temporary wetlands between the periods was as much as 4 m. Ground-water levels near semi-permanent wetlands were considerably more stable (annual range of 0.3-1.6 m) than those near temporary wetlands (1.3-2.5 m). The results support the concept that weather extremes drive the wetland cover cycle and other key ecological processes in prairie wetlands. The new data from Orchid Meadows, together with other long-term data sets from North Dakota and Saskatchewan, Canada, are useful for many research purposes, including the parameterization and testing of models that simulate the effects of climate variability and climate change on prairie wetland ecosystems.
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Influence of weather extremes on the water levels of glaciated prairie wetlands