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Managing agricultural wetlands for waterbirds in the coastal regions of Louisiana, U.S.A.

December 31, 2002

Rice and/or crawfish are cultivated in over 225,000 ha of shallow earthen impoundments within 160 km of the Gulf of Mexico along the coast of Louisiana. The region includes both the Gulf Coastal Plain and Prairie and the Lower Mississippi River Valley. Annual loss of 4,475 ha of coastal wetlands in Louisiana due to subsidence, erosion, and rising sea level has significantly reduced desirable freshwater habitat in the region. The suite of resident, migrant, breeding, and wintering waterbirds depending on this region includes grebes, pelicans, cormorants, anhingas, wading birds, waterfowl, coots, rails, gallinules, shorebirds, gulls, terns, and kingfishers. These taxa utilize the artificial freshwater wetland habitat provided by the agricultural wetlands. Numerous other birds utilize riparian areas associated with these artificial wetlands. Crawfish ponds are especially valuable cool season habitat for predaceous waterbirds because they provide shallow water systems rich in invertebrate and small vertebrate prey during the period from mid-autumn through mid-spring when most rice fields are drained. Because most crawfish ponds are not drained until late spring or early summer, predictable, food-rich, shallow water waterbird habitat is available throughout the region when rice fields are being cultivated for rice production. Incorporation of crawfish management into government-sponsored land conservation programs should encourage land owners to sustain standing water habitat outside of program mandated fill/drain requirements. Farmers could adjust the times when their impoundments are filled or drained to maximize benefits to many species, especially migrating shorebirds.

Publication Year 2002
Title Managing agricultural wetlands for waterbirds in the coastal regions of Louisiana, U.S.A.
Authors J.V. Huner, Clinton W. Jeske, Wayne Norling
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Waterbirds
Index ID 70207658
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Wetlands Research Center; Wetland and Aquatic Research Center