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Sedimentation of Prairie Pothole Wetlands: The Need for Integrated Research by Agricultural and Wildlife Interests

Management Strategies

The potential for soil erosion to degrade wetlands and reduce the productivity of agricultural lands is great. Only for the past several decades has concern over soil erosion focussed on the effects of sediment in aquatic environments. However, most work has been conducted on reservoirs, lakes, and streams, which typically receive sediment from nonpoint sources. In contrast, prairie wetlands have only recently received attention although they are located in small catchments where sources of sediment input are easily identified. Lakes and streams can be protected by implementing large-scale control measures (e.g., CRP, bufferstrips, grassways) and soil conservation practices (e.g., no-till, minimum till), whereas wetland protection can be implemented using site-specific techniques.

Efforts to reduce sedimentation of wetlands by establishing perennial cover (e.g., CRP) and using bufferstrips are effective. Benefits of CRP to wildlife in the northern Great Plains have been documented by Johnson and Schwartz (1993a, 1993b), Kantrud (1993), and Reynolds et al. (1994), but this program is confined to certain types of agricultural lands and its long-term future is uncertain. Also, there are private land programs under which wildlife agencies pay farmers to take land out of production or use certain conservation tillage practices (Payne and Wentz 1992), but these programs are often of short duration. Land-use practices such as conservation tillage and zero-tillage are becoming more common in the PPR. In 1991, minimum tillage and organic farms comprised approximately 260,000 ha in North Dakota (Conservation Technology Information Center 1992). Both practices are long-term, reduce soil erosion, enhance wildlife benefits (Cowan 1982; Duebbert 1987; Youngberg et al. 1984; Lokemoen and Beiser 1995), and promote a highly productive and sustainable agriculture.

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