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Duck Populations as Indicators of Landscape
Condition in the Prairie Pothole Region

Jane E. Austin, Thomas K. Buhl, Glenn R. Guntenspergen,
Wayne Norling, and H. Thomas Sklebar


Abstract: The Prairie Pothole Region of the northern Great Plains is an important region for waterfowl production because of the abundance of shallow wetlands. The ecological significance of the region and impacts from intensive agriculture prompted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to select it as one of the first areas for developing and evaluating ecological indicators of wetland condition. We examined hypothesized relations between indicators of landscape and wetland conditions and waterfowl abundance on 45 40 km² study sites in North Dakota for 1995-96. Landscape condition was defined a priori as the ratio of cropland area to total upland area surrounding wetlands. Measures of waterfowl abundance included estimated numbers of breeding pairs (by species and total numbers) and γ, a species-specific correction factor which effectively adjusts breeding pair estimates for annual or area-related differences in pond size. Landscape indicators and waterfowl measures varied among regions. Results indicated that most areas in the Coteau region are of much higher quality for ducks than those in the Drift Plain, and areas in the Red River Valley are of the poorest quality for ducks. Regression models demonstrated the impact of agricultural development on breeding duck populations in the Prairie Pothole Region. The most consistent landscape indicators of waterfowl abundance were percent of cropland and grassland. Models were inconsistent among years and species. The potential biotic indicators of landscape and wetland condition examined here would be appropriate for temporal trend analyses, but because of inherent geographic variability would not be appropriate for single-year geographic trend analyses without more extensive evaluations to improve explanatory models.

Keywords: dabbling duck population, indicator, landscape condition, North Dakota, prairie pothole region, wetlands


This resource is based on the following source (Northern Prairie Publication 1129):
Austin, Jane E., Thomas K. Buhl, Glenn R. Guntenspergen, Wayne 
     Norling, and H. Thomas Sklebar.  2001.  Duck populations 
     as indicators of landscape condition in the prairie pothole 
     region.  Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 69:29-47.

This resource should be cited as:

Austin, Jane E., Thomas K. Buhl, Glenn R. Guntenspergen, Wayne 
     Norling, and H. Thomas Sklebar.  2001.  Duck populations 
     as indicators of landscape condition in the prairie pothole 
     region.  Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 69:29-47.  
     Jamestown, ND: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Online.  
     http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/birds/dpopland/index.htm
     (Version 05DEC2001).

Table of Contents

Tables and Figures


Jane E. Austin*, Thomas K. Buhl, and H. Thomas Sklebar, U.S. Geological Survey, Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, Jamestown, North Dakota, U.S.A.
Glen R. Gutenspergen, U.S. Geological Survey, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, U.S.A.
Wayne Norling, U.S. Geological Survey, National Wetlands Research Center, Lafayette, Louisiana, U.S.A.

*Author for correspondence, e-mail: jane_austin@usgs.gov
** The U.S. Government's right to retain a non-exclusive, royalty-free license in and to any copyright is acknowledged.


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