Wetlands of North Dakota

Science Center Objects

Wetlands once covered about 4.9 million acres of North Dakota--11 percent of the State. By the 1980's, the acreage had decreased to about 2.7 million acres, a loss of about 45 percent.

Prairie Potholes

Wetlands once covered about 4.9 million acres of North Dakota--11 percent of the State. By the 1980's, the acreage had decreased to about 2.7 million acres, a loss of about 45 percent. Most of the losses have been caused by drainage for agricultural development. The rate of agricultural conversions in the future will likely depend on crop prices and other economic factors. Most of North Dakota's wetlands are prairie potholes, which provide nesting and feeding habitat for migratory waterfowl and wading birds. About one-half the Nation's duck population originates in the Prairie Pothole Region of North Dakota and other prairie States.

 

Prairie potholes, or sloughs, are water-holding depressions of glacial origin that occur in 300,000 square miles of prairies in north central United States and south-central Canada. These potholes provide the most productive wetland habitat for waterfowl in North America. Although comprising only 10 percent of the continental waterfowl-breeding, the pothole region produces about 50 percent of the duck crop in an average year and much more in bumper years (Smith and others, 1964, p. 39). Potholes also furnish water for other wildlife and livestock.