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Changes in types and area of postharvest flooded fields available to waterbirds in Tulare Basin, California

December 23, 2013

Conservation efforts to restore historic waterbird distribution and abundance in the Central Valley of California require information on current and historic areas of waterbird habitat. To provide this information, we mapped the area of agricultural fields in the vicinity of the historic Tulare Lake Bed in the Tulare Basin, California, that were treated postharvest with two different flooding regimes that varied in depth and duration of water applied (, 1 cm to 1.5 m water for longer than 1 wk [FLD]; , 1 to 15 cm water for 1 wk or less [IRG]) during August–March 1991–1994 and 2005–2006. We compared our results with published estimates for 1976–1980 and 1981–1987. Area and crops treated postharvest with FLD or IRG flooding differed among years and months. Overall for August through March, weekly area of FLD fields averaged 1,671 ha in 1976–1980 but declined to about half that in later years; the decline was most severe during January–March. Cotton was primarily treated with IRG flooding and comprised 47–95% of the total IRG field area. Other crops were primarily treated with FLD flooding; tomato replaced safflower in 2005–2006. These documented declines since the 1970s in area of FLD fields and changes in crops being flooded postharvest reduce the carrying capacity of the Tulare Basin for waterbirds, a situation that will need to be reversed for restoration of historic waterbird distribution in the Central Valley to be viable. If maintaining agricultural production is a priority and agricultural drainage waters can be disposed of safely, then increasing the extent of FLD grain fields would provide the most benefit for wintering waterbirds; otherwise, restoring and providing adequate water supplies to managed wetlands would most benefit waterbirds

Publication Year 2013
Title Changes in types and area of postharvest flooded fields available to waterbirds in Tulare Basin, California
DOI 10.3996/022013-JFWM-012
Authors Joseph P. Fleskes, Daniel A. Skalos, Melissa A. Farinha
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management
Index ID 70059403
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Ecological Research Center