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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Waterfowl Communities in the Northern Plains

Study Area

The Woodworth Study Area consists of 1231 ha of mixed-grass prairie pothole habitat in Stutsman County, east-central North Dakota (see, e.g., Higgins et al., 1992). It is situated on the Missouri Coteau, a morainal belt extending across the state in a northwest to southeast direction. The rolling terrain contains numerous wetland basins, totaling 548 in the study area and encompassing 10% of the land area. About two-thirds of the basins are seasonally flooded (classification according to Stewart and Kantrud, 1971) and these account for about one-third of the wetland surface area. Twelve percent of the basins, and nearly half the surface area of wetlands, are semipermanently flooded. Except for a 53ha permanent lake, other wetlands are temporary or ephemeral. All wetlands are of either fresh or slightly brackish water (Stewart and Kantrud, 1971).

Prior to its purchase by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, land use in the study area was a mixture of cattle grazing and hay and crop production (Bayha, 1964). Those agricultural practices have continued in the privately owned portions of the study area. In the federally owned portions (87% of the area), management of the uplands since acquisition has emphasized restoration of the grasslands. Some formerly cropped fields were replanted to grasses or grasslegume mixtures, and unbroken grasslands have been managed mostly by prescribed burning. Release of the area from regular grazing and haying has resulted in increased areas of emergent vegetation in many wetland basins in the study area (H. A. Kantrud, Northern Prairie Science Center, personal communication).

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