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Upland burning and grazing as strategies to offset climate-change effects on wetlands

January 11, 2021

Wetland ecosystems perform a multitude of services valued by society and provide critical habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife. Despite their importance, wetlands have been lost to different local, regional, and global drivers. Remaining wetlands are extremely sensitive to changing temperature and precipitation regimes. Management of grassland areas in wetland catchments may be an effective strategy for counteracting potentially negative impacts of climate change on wetlands. Our objective was to estimate the effects of climate changes on wetland hydrology, and to explore strategies for increasing surface-water inputs to wetlands. We coupled a field study with process-based simulation modeling of wetland-water levels. We found that climate change could decrease the number of wetlands that hold ponded water during the waterfowl breeding season by 14% under a hot wet scenario or 29% under a hot dry scenario if no upland-management actions were taken. Upland burning reduced pond losses to 9% (hot wet) and 26% (hot dry). Upland grazing resulted in the smallest loss of ponded wetlands, 6% loss under the hot-and-wet scenario and 22% loss under the hot-and-dry scenario. Overall, water inputs could be increased by either burning or grazing of upland vegetation thereby reducing pond losses during the waterfowl breeding season. While field results suggest that both grazing and burning can reduce the vegetative structure that could lead to increases in runoff in grassland catchments, our model simulations indicated that additional actions may be needed for managers to minimize future meteorologically driven water losses.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2021
Title Upland burning and grazing as strategies to offset climate-change effects on wetlands
DOI 10.1007/s11273-020-09778-1
Authors Owen P. McKenna, David A. Renton, David M. Mushet, Edward S. DeKeyser
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Wetlands Ecology and Management
Index ID 70217195
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center