Factors Affecting Wetland Use by Spring Migrating Ducks in the Southern Prairie Pothole Region

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Ballard, Derek
Jones, Orrin
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Janke, Adam
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Natural Resource Ecology and Management
The Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management is dedicated to the understanding, effective management, and sustainable use of our renewable natural resources through the land-grant missions of teaching, research, and extension.
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There is increasing recognition of the importance of wetlands in the prairie pothole region (PPR) of the northern United States for stopover habitat for spring-migrating waterfowl. The quality and quantity of stopover habitat found near breeding areas can affect speed and success of migration and subsequent breeding events. Conservation and management of wetlands in the region has traditionally focused narrowly on reproductive phases of the life cycle, and little to no research has examined how ducks use a diversity of available wetlands in the region during migration. We conducted weekly surveys on 1,061 wetlands during spring 2018 and 2019 to examine factors affecting duck use of wetlands in the intensively modified southern PPR landscape of Iowa, USA, for wetland restoration and conservation strategies. We compared wetland types, which included farmed, seasonal, and semi-permanent wetlands, and lakes. The highest duck use per unit area occurred on semi-permanent wetlands, followed by seasonal, and then farmed wetlands, and lakes. Ducks were highly clustered in our study, with 75% of all use-days occurring on only 37 wetlands comprising 41% of all wetland area surveyed. We used hurdle models to examine how local and landscape factors measured within and around wetlands influenced duck use during spring migration. Multiple factors related to duck use at local and landscape scales, such as wetland area, vegetation abundance, and number of wetlands in the surrounding landscape. Among semi-permanent wetlands, local factors within wetlands were more important than landscape factors in determining duck use. Collectively, our findings suggest semi-permanent wetlands within the PPR play a key role in transitioning birds from wintering areas to breeding areas and that management of semi-permanent wetlands should promote interspersion of emergent vegetation and open water and growth of submersed aquatic plants to improve their function for migrants.


This article is published as Ballard, Derek C., Orrin E. Jones III, and Adam K. Janke. "Factors Affecting Wetland Use by Spring Migrating Ducks in the Southern Prairie Pothole Region." The Journal of Wildlife Management (2021). doi:10.1002/jwmg.22096.

Fri Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2021