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Wetland Symposium

The Marsh Ecology Research Program: A Long-term Study on Water Fluctuations in a Northern Prairie Marsh


Institute for Wetland and Waterfowl Research, Ducks Unlimited, Stonewall P.O. Box 1160, Oak Hammock Marsh, MB, R0C 2Z0 Canada; Institute for Wetland and Waterfowl Research, Ducks Unlimited Inc., One Waterfowl Way, Memphis, TN 38120-2351; Institute for Wetland and Waterfowl Research, Ducks Unlimited, Stonewall P.O. Box 1160, Oak Hammock Marsh, MB, R0C 2Z0 Canada; Utah State University, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, UMC-5210, Logan, UT 84322-5210; Iowa State University, Department of Botany, 124 Science II, Ames, IA 50011

In response to the need for long-term multi-disciplinary research in freshwater wetlands, the Marsh Ecology Research Program (MERP) was initiated in 1979 as a joint project of Ducks Unlimited and the Delta Waterfowl and Wetlands Research Station. A scientific team with participants from a variety of disciplines (hydrology, plant ecology, invertebrate ecology, vertebrate ecology, nutrient dynamics, marsh management) was assembled to design and oversee a long-term experiment on the effects of water level manipulations on northern prairie marshes. The study area, located on the Delta Marsh in south-central Manitoba, consisted of ten, five-ha experimental marsh cells, each with independent water level control. The cells were subjected to a series of water level changes designed to include all phases of the wet-dry cycle of prairie marshes. Ten years of field work (1980-89) combined a routine monitoring program and graduate student studies. Over 300 summer students gained experience working on MERP. A total of 16 graduate theses (M.S. and Ph.D.) were completed on a variety of topics. To date over 80 scientific papers have been completed, with many more in preparation. Since 1990, the completion phase of MERP has been funded by Ducks Unlimited through the Institute for Wetland and Waterfowl Research. Currently, the scientific team is preparing a summary book that will bring all the MERP information together and combine it with our current understanding of prairie wetlands to serve as a state-of-the-art treatise on prairie wetland ecology. Once this scientific volume is completed, a second volume is planned that will highlight the management implications of the MERP results.

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