Ducks Unlimited says a documented drop in wetland numbers in the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) during a recent 12-year period could add up to a loss of breeding habitat for 100,000 duck pairs. A new study by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) on the status of prairie wetlands in the United States found the PPR lost more than 107,000 wetland basins from 1997 to 2009.
“What’s even more concerning for waterfowl is we know this loss trend is continuing,” said DU Chief Scientist Scott Yaich. “Our research points to wetland numbers and health as being one of the most important factors in determining populations for waterfowl. Waterbirds, shorebirds and other wildlife are also dependent on healthy wetlands.”
In the United States, the PPR, with its extensive wetlands, extends from Iowa up and west to northern Montana. The area supplies upwards to a third of the continent’s breeding waterfowl population. The FWS wetlands inventory cites the PPR loss of close to 95,500 acres of emergent wetlands and more than 568,000 acres of grasslands.
“The small, seasonal wetlands are the most important in terms of breeding waterfowl habitat,” Mr. Yaich said. “These shallow wetlands are full of the kinds of protein food ducks need to produce eggs. The wetlands also provide necessary food for ducklings.”
Wetlands also provide benefits to people, including filtering out impurities and controlling flooding. Mr. Yaich points out that the report demonstrates the importance of restoring the Clean Water Act provisions that once protected isolated wetlands in the prairies. “The future of waterfowl populations depends on stemming wetland loss,” Mr. Yaich said.