Long-term changes in wetland and prairie landscapes

Science Center Objects

Over the past 50 years, wetlands in the Prairie Pothole Region of the northern Great Plains have experienced a wide range of climatic conditions (severe drought to extreme wet), expansion of invasive species such as hybrid cattail, and disturbances (e.g., grazing, burning, flooding, drainage).  In this study, we revisited wetlands that Stewart and Kantrud (1971) studied 50 years ago to evaluate changes in hydrological features and plant community.  The three study areas encompassed fresh to saline wetland systems, and had different topographic and edaphic conditions.  Climatic extremes greatly impacted wetland size, depths, and specific conductivity for Crystal Springs and Cottonwood study areas whereas wetlands at Mt. Moriah appeared more resilient. Climatic extremes, in combination with invasive plant species, greatly impacted species composition, frequency, and abundance of individual plant species in plant communities within wetland zones across all three study areas. This study demonstrates the value of long-term monitoring and provides valuable insights on how wetland systems respond to interactions of climate, topography, and land use.