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Study offers a dire prediction for waterfowl population

Discussion in 'Minnesota Flyway Forum' started by h2ofwlr, Nov 28, 2005.

  1. h2ofwlr

    h2ofwlr Elite Refuge Member

    Jun 19, 2001
    In the land of 100,000 drained wetlands
    Study offers a dire prediction for waterfowl population

    The wetlands that produce most of North America's ducks and other waterfowl could be lost to global warming in a few decades, says a new study.

    Bruce Bisping Star Tribune
    Tom Meersman, Star Tribune
    Last update: November 27, 2005 at 8:54 PM

    North America's premier duck breeding grounds will be much drier and in many places will disappear, according to a study on how climate change could affect the Upper Midwest in the next 50 to 100 years.

    Carter Johnson, a professor of ecology at South Dakota State University and co-author of the research, said that the number of ducks could plummet by 50 percent or more as early as 2050 if global warming dries up the wetlands where they nest.

    The area, known as the prairie pothole region, contains an estimated 5 million small ponds spread across more than 300,000 square miles of the Dakotas, western Minnesota and Iowa, northeastern Montana and three Canadian provinces. It is notorious for episodic wet and dry spells, but is large enough for waterfowl to adapt and migrate past localized areas of drought to find other ponds in the region with enough water and cover.

    That would end if climate change increases average temperatures across the entire prairie pothole region, Johnson said.

    Most of the area would become too dry for ducks and other birds, he said. Only the fringes of the region -- in western Minnesota and northwestern Iowa -- might still have wetlands, he said.

    Johnson and a team of researchers from Minnesota and Montana reached these dire conclusions after studying 95 years of climate data and using hydrologic models to simulate how the Northern Great Plains would change during this century. Their report, published in the journal BioScience, offers detailed predictions on how global warming might affect the prairie potholes, which produce between 50 to 80 percent of the continent's ducks.

    Region is a 'duck factory'

    The prairie pothole region has been described as a "duck factory" and is considered to be one of the most productive habitats for waterfowl in the world. The reason, according to study co-author Glenn Guntenspergen, is that it contains different types of wetlands that birds need at different times. Temporary wetlands that hold water only in early spring are critical for ducks as they migrate north because they harbor insects and other food while deeper wetlands remain frozen, he said. After the ducks pair, mate and nest, he said, they and their ducklings need deeper wetlands for food and protection in late spring and summer.

    Guntenspergen, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Duluth, said the team used conservative projections of temperature increases in the study, and estimated what would happen with an average temperature increase of 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit during the next 100 years.

    The area would still have occasional wet years, he said, but they would be much less frequent. The net effect would be lower water levels, longer dry periods and no water for years in many shallow wetlands.

    The effect on birds would be dramatic, and the research paper cited mallards as an example. Whereas the number of mallards during the past century has ranged from 2 million to 7 million birds a year during droughts and wet periods, it said, the outlook for the coming decades is that mallard populations will drop below historical lows and remain there.

    The next best habitat

    Guntenspergen said that if the most productive waterfowl breeding areas in the Dakotas become marginal, the next best habitat for birds will be on the eastern and northern fringes of the pothole region, including western Minnesota and northwestern Iowa.

    In those areas, most wetlands have been drained and would need to be restored, he said. For that reason, federal conservation managers may need to "hedge their bets" and begin spending more money on wetlands restoration in Minnesota and Iowa, he added.

    The study's predictions left Dave Zentner dumbfounded. He is a Duluth conservationist who coordinated a rally for ducks, wetlands and clean water in April that drew an estimated 4,000 people to the state Capitol.

    The predicted wetland and waterfowl losses should concern not only hunters but everyone who cares about trumpeter swans, gulls, terns, bitterns, night herons and other wildlife that depends on wetlands, he said.

    "I would hope that duck hunters would take this seriously and realize that this is not far-fetched theory," he said. "This is a real threat and the country needs to develop policies for it."

    Many conservation groups have worked to protect and restore wetlands. That work is continuing, said Bill Henke, president of the Minnesota division of the Izaak Walton League. Now, the threat of global warming means that conservationists must take on that issue as well.

    Tom Meersman

  2. goose_caller

    goose_caller Elite Refuge Member

    Sep 5, 2002
    Yankee Country
    Was a good read this morning in the trib, like I always said DU and Delta put all their eggs in one basket. I know it is more expensive to do projects in MN and IA, but when drought hits the dakotas or canada like it has in the past we are screwed.
  3. Decoy-em-in

    Decoy-em-in Elite Refuge Member

    Sep 19, 2003
    Mission Hills, KS
    At the rate Minnesota farmers are allowed to rape the land of its resources (under the watch of the DNR and state Gov), the dire prediction will come sooner than in a few decades.
  4. commander019

    commander019 Elite Refuge Member

    Dec 31, 2004
    A semi load of drain tile just went in a farmers field which I drive by every day. Its normaly wet with ducks in it but I guess that will come to a hault now. That is the 4th farm this fall I have witnessed that happen to. This is a sad state we live in. As much as I hate to say it, I believe we have entered into a losing battle.
  5. hobbydog

    hobbydog Elite Refuge Member

    Jun 24, 2002
    After a long weekend it had to be a real slow news day to put that piece of crap in there. So what was the point of the story.....That global warming will cause a drought in the Dakotas? That it might cause a drought? That the pothole region will permanantly become a desert?

    Or was it that more mony should be spent in Minnesota?

    If the temp does rise 5 degrees by 2050 don't you think there will be bigger problems to worry about than not enough ducks.

    Since Devils Lake is a historic high level it is probably a safe guess that there is dry weather on the way in the future if DL is to return to "normal " levels.. So far, global warming has caused more flooding in ND in the last 10 years than drought.

    There is no dought that global climate change will have impacts on plant and animal life....some good....some bad.
  6. woodduckwizard

    woodduckwizard Elite Refuge Member

    Jul 10, 2002
    Sartell, MN
    at least we could still hunt honkers!
  7. mnblaster

    mnblaster Senior Refuge Member

    Apr 23, 2004

    Does this mean that "global warming" is now a fact? This article sure contains alot of "coulds" and "mights".
  8. wooduck26

    wooduck26 Elite Refuge Member

    Jul 20, 2000
    Good Read.
    Good Responses by all!
    Barry_____Very Good Point!
    HD______Good Point
    Commander_____Its only gonna get worse :mad:
    CW______ :rolleyes:
    D-E-I_______It already has.... :cry
  9. KO

    KO Senior Refuge Member

    Dec 29, 2004
    Piece of crap?

    You dont think the destruction of the rain forests and all the pollution we've dumped into the air is going cause problems? Haven't you noticed our lack of real winters? Nowdays getting 6 inches of snow is a major storm....there's no question global warming is real....as far there being good and bad...where's the good......dried up wells?....even prarrie grass needs rain :rolleyes:
  10. Bullet21XD

    Bullet21XD Elite Refuge Member

    Aug 9, 2002
    Central, Minnesota

    More doom and gloom BS based on sheer speculation!

    I guess they need to print something to get everyone scared as usual...waterfowlers are suckers for bad news it seems.

    As Hobbydog pointed out...DROUGHT??? Yeah...i'll believe that when water levels in ND start falling!!

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