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Factors Associated with Duck Nest Success
in the Prairie Pothole Region of Canada

Prairie Pothole Region of Canada


The PPR of Canada (Fig. 1) is composed of about 480,000 km² in southeastern Alberta, southern Saskatchewan, and southwestern Manitoba (Bellrose 1980). This area is flat to gently rolling and dissected by several rivers. Glacially formed wetlands abound (Gollop 1965), especially in the Missouri Coteau that extends from central Alberta into southeastern Saskatchewan (Kendrew and Currie 1955).

The climate is continental. Snowmelt in spring proceeds from southwest to northeast. Summer temperatures are similar throughout the Region; the July mean is about 18 C. Annual precipitation averages 35.0-45.0 cm (25-30% contributed by snow). June and July have greatest average precipitation. Least precipitation and greatest evaporation occur in southwestern Saskatchewan (Kendrew and Currie 1955, Richards and Fung 1969).

The PPR encompasses 2 physiographic zones: aspen parkland (hereafter called parkland) and prairie (Fig. 1). Parkland is transitional between boreal forest and prairie and contains much deciduous forest (Bird 1961). In the transition to prairie, parkland changes from large wooded areas to an increasingly scattered mosaic of small wooded areas, especially encircling wetlands. Precipitation, ungulates, and fire historically have had important influences on composition of vegetation of the PPR (Bird 1961, Kiel et al. 1972, Daubenmire 1978:190). Presently, weather and farming have greatest impacts (Bird 1961, Merriam 1978, Archibold and Wilson 1980, Turner et al. 1987). Spring-seeded wheat, barley, and canola are the most common grain crops (Sask. Agric. 1982). Cultivated forage crops include mostly alfalfa, sweet clover, and brome grass.

Native perennial vegetation is characterized by robust grasses and forbs in parkland; in prairie, grasses tend to be shorter and forbs less conspicuous (Daubenmire 1978:187). Deciduous trees in parkland are mostly balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera) and quaking aspen (P. tremuloides). In both parkland and prairie, shrubs include plum and cherry (Prunus spp.), Saskatoon serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia), silverberry (Elaeagnus commutata), rose (Rosa spp.), snowberry (Symphoricarpos spp.), and willow (Salix spp.). Vegetation of wetlands is similar throughout the PPR (Millar 1969). Emergent wetland plants that provide nesting cover for ducks are grasses, especially reedgrass (Calamagrostis spp.) and whitetop rivergrass (Scolochloa festucacea), sedges (Carex spp.), rushes (Juncus spp.), cattails (Typha spp.), and bulrushes (Scirpus spp.).

GIF-Prairie Pothole Region of North America
Figure 1. Prairie Pothole region of North America showing 1982-85 study areas in parkland (dark shading) and prairie (light shading) physiographic zones. Inset at top shows the Waterfowl Breeding Ground Survey (Off. Migr. Bird Manage., USFWS, Laurel, Md.) aerial transect, the air-ground segment, and the 40 quarter-section study area where we searched for duck nests.
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