The prairie pothole region (PPR) lies in the heart of North America and contains millions of glacially formed, depressional wetlands embedded in a landscape matrix of natural grassland and agriculture. These wetlands provide valuable ecosystem services and produce 50% to 80% of the continent's ducks. We explored the broad spatial and temporal patterns across the PPR between climate and wetland water levels and vegetation by applying a wetland simulation model (WETSIM) to 18 stations with 95-year weather records. Simulations suggest that the most productive habitat for breeding waterfowl would shift under a drier climate from the center of the PPR (the Dakotas and southeastern Saskatchewan) to the wetter eastern and northern fringes, areas currently less productive or where most wetlands have been drained. Unless these wetlands are protected and restored, there is little insurance for waterfowl against future climate warming. WETSIM can assist wetland managers in allocating restoration dollars in an uncertain climate future.
Additional publication details
Vulnerability of northern prairie wetlands to climate change