Agricultural Land Drainage
Wetland drainage has been a chronic problem affecting ecosystems in the Prairie Pothole Region since agriculture entered the region and a perception of wetlands and wastelands developed. However, much of the region is hydrologically closed and therefore water drained from wetlands occurring at higher topographic positions on a landscape often accumulate in down-gradient wetlands. Thus, water from many wetland basins becomes "consolidated" into a smaller number of wetlands at lower elevations, increasing the quantity and affecting the quality of water in these down-gradient wetlands. Additionally, the rapid expansion of agricultural subsurface tile drainage in the Prairie Pothole Region has potential to also alter wetland ecosystem services (e.g., waterfowl habitat, water storage) by further changing the hydrology of wetlands and their catchments. We are assessing how hydrologic alterations related to consolidation and tile drainage have influenced wetlands and wetland communities and the potential for further effects into the future.