Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
The goal of the PPJV is to increase waterfowl populations through habitat conservation projects that improve natural diversity across the U.S. Prairie Pothole landscape.
|Note: For the purposes of this document, natural diversity is defined as an appropriate mix of plant and animal communities that can be sustained in association with profitable agriculture.|
Waterfowl breeding populations have always fluctuated in the PPR with wetland abundance and quality. Dry conditions are common in grasslands, but abundant rain and snow, cool temperatures, and high soil moisture levels periodically combine to create extensive complexes of a diversity of wetland types in this region. Prior to the extensive loss of grassland/wetland complexes, the PPR produced an abundance of waterfowl and other migratory birds during wet years. Waterfowl populations increased during rare sequences of abnormally wet conditions, and probably declined or stabilized when drier or moderate conditions returned.
The goal of the PPJV is to implement landscape level habitat projects so that waterfowl populations increase during the wet years and stabilize under moderate conditions. Since little can be done to stabilize breeding populations across the PPR during extended drought, PPJV strategies are designed to implement actions that take advantage of years when precipitation is at least normal.
Intensive agriculture is the predominate land use throughout the PPR. Large, intensively cultivated fields of small grains or row crops have replaced once diversified farms that incorporated livestock into their operations. With the reduced numbers of livestock, many farmers have converted pastures and hayfields to cropland. Except on marginal lands or lands enrolled in government land retirement programs, wildlife cover has been largely eliminated to facilitate the use of large equipment now employed by modern agriculture. Much of the natural diversity formerly found in the PPR has been eliminated. Subsequently, most upland nesting waterfowl and many species of grassland birds have experienced steep decline over the past three decades.
Improved diversity that can be sustained in association with profitable agriculture is resulting from PPJV strategies at the landscape level. The protection and restoration of grasslands, in combination with complexes of wetland types, will be the primary means by which the PPJV will improve both waterfowl production and natural diversity. Where large grasslands are secure, wetlands will be restored, enhanced, or created. In areas where intensive cultivation will persist and wetlands are abundant, more intensive conservation actions are necessary, e.g., grassland easements/leases and nesting structures.