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Effects of Vegetation Manipulation on Breeding Waterfowl in Prairie Wetlands — A Literature Review*

Harold A. Kantrud


Abstract: Literature on the effects of fire and grazing on the wetlands used by breeding prairie waterfowl is reviewed. Both dabbling and diving ducks and their broods prefer wetlands with openings in the marsh canopy. Decreased use is commonly associated with decreased habitat heterogeneity caused by tall, robust hydrophytes such as Typha spp. and other species adapted to form monotypes in the absence of disturbance. Nearly all previous studies indicate that reductions in height and density of tall, emergent hydrophytes by fire and grazing (unless very intensive) generally benefit breeding waterfowl. Such benefits are an increase in pair density, probably related to increased interspersion of cover and open water which decreases visibility among conspecific pairs, and improvements in their invertebrate food resources that result from increased habitat heterogeneity. Research needs are great because of the drastic changes that have accrued to prairie wetlands through fire suppression, cultivation, and other factors. The physical and biological environments preferred by species of breeding waterfowl during their seasonal and daily activities should be ascertained from future studies in wetland complexes that exist in the highest state of natural preservation. Long-term burning and grazing experiments should follow on specific vegetatively-degraded wetlands judged to be potentially important breeding areas. Seasonality, frequency, and intensity of treatments should be varied and combined and, in addition to measuring the response of the biotic community, the changes in the physical and chemical environment of the wetlands should be monitored to increase our knowledge of causative factors and possible predictive values.
This resource is based on the following source (Northern Prairie Publication 764):
Kantrud, Harold A.  1990.  Effects of vegetation manipulation on breeding 
     waterfowl in prairie wetlands — a literature review.  Pages 93-123 
     in Can livestock be used as a tool to enhance wildlife habitat?  
     U.S. Dept. Agric., For. Serv. Gen. Tech.  Rep. RM-194.  123 pp.

This resource should be cited as:

Kantrud, Harold A.  1990.  Effects of vegetation manipulation on breeding 
     waterfowl in prairie wetlands — a literature review.  Pages 93-123 
     in Can livestock be used as a tool to enhance wildlife habitat?  
     U.S. Dept. Agric., For. Serv. Gen. Tech.  Rep. RM-194.  123 pp.  
     Jamestown, ND: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Online.  
     http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/wetlands/vegmanip/index.htm
     (Version 27AUG2002).

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* This article was first published by the United States Department of Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, as Fish and Wildlife Technical Report 3, 1986.

Harold A. Kantrud, Wildlife Research Biologist, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, P.O. Box 2096, Jamestown, North Dakota 58401


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