World Wetland Day 2010 brings with it new research on America’s prairie wetlands and bad news for the country’s waterfowl. A new study in BioScience finds that America’s prairies are greatly susceptible to climate change: a warmer and drier prairie will desiccate wetlands needed by ducks and other waterfowl for food, shelter, and breeding.
“Unfortunately, the model simulations show that under forecasted climate-change scenarios for this region (an increase of 4-degrees Celsius), the western prairie potholes will be too dry and the eastern ones will have too few functional wetlands and nesting habitat to support historical levels of waterfowl and other wetland-dependent species,” said Dr. W. Carter Johnson, study author and a researcher at South Dakota State University.
By developing a new and more comprehensive model of climate change impacts on America’s prairie—incorporating states like Minnesota, Montana, North and South Dakota, and Iowa—researchers found that the area will likely experience major reductions in water volume.
“Our results indicate that the prairie wetlands are highly vulnerable to climate warming, and are less resilient than we previously believed,” said Dr. Glenn Guntenspergen, a U.S. Geological Survey researcher and one of the report authors. “All but the very wettest of the historic boom years for waterfowl production in the more arid parts of the prairie pothole region may be bust years in a 4-degrees Celsius warmer climate.”
Not only iconic species for the region, ducks are incredibly popular with hunters in the region.
(01/04/2010) Sarah Lehnen has worked with America’s rich birdlife for a decade: she has studied everything from songbirds inhabiting dwindling shrub land in Ohio to shorebirds stopping over in the Mississippi Rive alluvial valley, always with an eye towards conservation. Most recently she has been involved in testing migratory birds for avian flu. It may come as a surprise, but American birds are in serious decline. In March of last year, US Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, announced that one-in-three American birds are endangered. Even once common birds are showing precipitous declines. Birds face a barrage of threats, which are only complicated—and heightened—for migratory birds.
(10/28/2008) Matt Filsinger is driving his white pickup headed northeast from Sterling to look at two of his projects. This self-described introvert speaks enthusiastically about his job. “Ducks, ducks, ducks – that’s what I love!” says Filsinger, grinning broadly. Filsinger is a wildlife biologist with the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He works with private landowners to set aside land and create attractive habitat for imperiled species. Specifically, he designs wetlands to attract waterfowl. Partners for Fish and Wildlife is a successful program that has been around since 1987. Landowners, including farmers and ranchers, form partnerships with the program because they reap a variety of benefits from it. Nonprofit organizations such as Ducks Unlimited, Audubon and the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory are also partners. Collaboration between the federal government and private landowners is essential to preserving habitat and species, as 73 percent of the country’s land is privately owned, and most wildlife lives on that land.
(09/15/2008) 41 percent of 522 migratory waterbird populations on the routes across Africa and Eurasia show decreasing trends, reports a new study released at the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement meeting in Antananarivo, Madagascar.