Climate Change Effects on Prairies Studied

BROOKINGS, S.D., Feb. 3 (UPI) — Scientists say the loss of wetlands due to climate change across central North American prairies will negatively affect millions of waterfowl.

The researchers said they’ve discovered the region is much more sensitive to climate warming than previously thought, posing a bleak future for waterfowl that depend on wetlands for food, shelter and the raising of their young.

“The impact to the millions of wetlands that attract countless ducks to these breeding grounds in spring makes it difficult to imagine how to maintain today’s level of waterfowl populations in altered climate conditions,” said Glenn Guntenspergen, a U.S. Geological Survey researcher.

The researchers focused on the prairie pothole region — a 308,880-square-mile area that covers North and South Dakota, Montana, Minnesota, Iowa and parts of Canada, containing thousands of shallow wetlands known as potholes.

Many wetland species depend on the potholes to complete their life cycles, the scientists said.

“Unfortunately, the model simulations show that under forecast climate-change scenarios … the western prairie potholes will be too dry and the eastern ones will have too few functional wetlands and nesting habitat to support historical levels of waterfowl and other wetland-dependent species,” said W. Carter Johnson, a researcher at South Dakota State University.

The study that also included scientists from the University of Montana, St. Olaf College and the Universities of Nevada and Idaho is detailed in the journal BioScience.

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Categorized | Rivers, Lakes & Wetlands
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