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Wetland occupancy by duck broods in cropland-dominated landscapes of the United States Prairie Pothole Region

December 19, 2022

The Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) is globally important for breeding waterfowl but has been altered via wetland drainage and grassland conversion to accommodate agricultural land use. Thus, understanding the ecology of waterfowl in these highly modified landscapes is essential for their conservation. Brood occurrence is the cumulative outcome of key life-history events including pair formation and territory establishment, nest success, and early brood survival. We applied new technological advances in brood surveying methods to understand brood use of wetlands and how land use and wetland-specific factors influenced brood use of 413 wetlands in crop-dominated landscapes in the PPR of Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota, USA, during summers of 2018–2020. Dynamic occupancy models combining information from 2 visits throughout the year revealed no difference among the 4 states or between private and public lands, resulting in a region-wide annual wetland occupancy estimate of 0.41 (95% credible interval [CrI] = 0.26, 0.58). We assessed aquatic invertebrate forage availability, wetland and upland vegetation communities, and various water chemistry metrics in a subset (n = 225) of these wetlands to evaluate how landscape and wetland-specific factors influenced occupancy. The amount of grassland surrounding wetlands was the only variable to influence occupancy at a landscape scale, while wetland size, invertebrates, fish, and vegetation communities influenced occupancy at finer scales. Closer scrutiny of wetland area revealed occupancy was greater in small wetlands after controlling for total wetland area. Our results indicate the greatest constraint on brood occupancy across crop-dominated landscapes of the PPR in the United States was the occurrence of semipermanent wetlands suitable for brood rearing. Other factors, such as wetland vegetation or surrounding land use, had minor intervening influences on duck brood use and ducks were distributed invariant of wetland ownership or broad spatial processes occurring among states. These results demonstrated wetland conservation and restoration strategies are likely to yield gains in annual duck broods across this vast, altered, and highly modified landscape.

Publication Year 2023
Title Wetland occupancy by duck broods in cropland-dominated landscapes of the United States Prairie Pothole Region
DOI 10.1002/jwmg.22347
Authors Blake J Mitchell, Catrina V Terry, Kevin M Ringelman, Kaylan M Kemink, Michael J. Anteau, Adam K. Janke
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Wildlife Management
Index ID 70239789
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center