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Evaluation of Restored Wetlands in the Prairie Pothole Region:

Research Design and Overview

U. S. Geological Survey
Biological Resources Division
Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
8711 37th Street Southeast
Jamestown, North Dakota 58401-7317

An Invitation

Restoration of wetlands remains a subject of management interest throughout North America. Evaluation of such efforts remain problematic, however, and applicable guidelines are not available. This is an invitation to join us in a large-scale investigation to address the specifics of wetland restoration over a broad landscape and at several levels of study.


Wetland ecosystems in the Prairie Pothole Region are critical habitats to a diverse wetland biota, including waterfowl and other migratory birds, which are addressed by international treaties among the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The Prairie Pothole Region is the most important area in North America for the production of waterfowl and is also a major producer of cereal grains. As a consequence of intensive agricultural development, numerous wetlands have been drained and less than 50% of the estimated 8 million hectares of wetlands remain. To mitigate this extreme loss of wetlands, international, federal, state, and private agencies have initiated a major effort to restore previously drained and farmed wetlands in the Prairie Pothole Region. Unfortunately, there has been little effort to evaluate the success of wetland restorations, even though the effectiveness of wetland restoration is not well understood, and restoration procedures have been developed primarily by trial and error. To address this research need the Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center is coordinating a multi-agency evaluation of wetland restorations throughout the entire U.S. portion of the Prairie Pothole Region (includes portions of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa). The objective of the study is to evaluate the success of wetland restorations relative to their natural analogues, and to identify optimal management strategies to maximize restoration potential. This effort currently includes 24 federal, state, and local natural resource agencies and will soon include others; the effort began in spring, 1997.


The basic approach consists of a one-time extensive survey of a large sample of wetlands followed by intensive studies that are of longer duration and are conducted on subsets of the wetlands sampled during the extensive survey. The extensive survey will be conducted by Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center and will focus on measuring variables that have intrinsic value for testing regional-level hypotheses and/or those needed by collaborators to tie intensive studies to the larger effort. Data collected during the extensive data collection effort will be shared with collaborators to facilitate development of intensive studies. The extensive database collected by Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center will be used to provide spatial characterization and to assess the influence of regional-level factors on the success of wetland restorations. Subsequently, investigators addressing intensive studies will bring a regional perspective to their work by linking their studies with data gathered in the extensive study.

Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center will be responsible for defining sample wetlands from the population of restored wetlands in the Prairie Pothole Region. Data archival and data sharing among collaborators between the extensive study and the intensive studies will be coordinated by the Center. To ensure linkages and integrity of intensive studies, Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center will provide collaborators with reviews of research proposals and will develop standard operating procedures for measurement of extensive variables.

Additionally, Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, in conjunction with its sister facility in Fort Collins, Colorado, The Midcontinent Ecological Science Center, developed a searchable restoration literature database that is currently being served on the Center's homepage. This is a living resource that is routinely updated as new literature becomes available.

This research will contribute to our basic knowledge about Prairie Pothole Region wetlands and identify optimal restoration and management strategies. It will provide the first comprehensive review of the consequences of wetland restoration activities in this region, and will provide guidelines for subsequent agency and local action. There has been much interest in this research effort. A number of collaborating organizations have joined in this effort and there are currently 23 separate intensive studies that will be linked to the extensive study.

If you are interested in collaborating in this effort, or if you would like further information, please contact:

Chip Euliss
Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
8711 37th Street Southeast
Jamestown, North Dakota 58401-7317
Phone: 701-253-5564
Fax: 701-253-5553

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