Non-Linear Response of Prairie Pothole Landscapes to Climate Change and Land Management

EPA Grant Number: R833016
Title: Non-Linear Response of Prairie Pothole Landscapes to Climate Change and Land Management
Investigators: Johnson, Carter , Guntenspergen, Glenn R. , Millett, Bruce V , Fay, Phil , Adams, Richard , Voldseth, Richard
Current Investigators: Johnson, Carter , Olker, Jennifer H. , Guntenspergen, Glenn R. , Millett, Bruce V , Rashford, Ben , Werner, Brett , Tulbure, Mirela , Fay, Phil , Adams, Richard , Voldseth, Richard
Institution: South Dakota State University , United States Geological Survey [USGS] , Oregon State University
Current Institution: South Dakota State University , Oregon State University , United States Geological Survey [USGS]
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: July 1, 2006 through July 31, 2010 (Extended to December 31, 2010)
Project Amount: $856,574
RFA: Nonlinear Responses to Global Change in Linked Aquatic and Terrestrial Ecosystems and Effects of Multiple Factors on Terrestrial Ecosystems: A Joint Research Solicitation- EPA, DOE (2005) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Global Climate Change , Ecosystems , Climate Change


A multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional project that examines the possibility that the response of prairie wetland ecosystems to climate change may be non-linear or threshold in nature.


Wetland ecosystems of the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) in the northern Great Plains are extremely vulnerable to climate change. While aspects of this vulnerability have been examined in previous research, strongly suspected threshold responses of these wetlands to environmental drivers remain largely unstudied. Our objective is to identify possible future climatic and land use conditions that could sharply reduce biodiversity in wetlands across the PPR.


A multi-step, integrated research framework will examine non-linear responses through the use of a tested mathematical model (WETLANDSCAPE) that links upland and wetland processes at the landscape scale. Simulations will focus on critical environmental thresholds that control key ecosystem processes upon which most wetland biodiversity depends. Terrestrial (upland) conditions and their management will be explicitly incorporated as they influence the environment of wetlands down slope. The potential to use land management to mitigate for possible negative consequences of climate change on prairie wetland biodiversity will be examined using a land use decision model that embeds economic variables. This will allow quantification of the economic costs of land use alterations to achieve ecosystem goals.

Expected Results:

A primary outcome of this research will be to inform the scientific and management community, and ultimately the public, of the existence of critical thresholds in the hydrologic environment of prairie wetlands which, if exceeded by future climate forcings, could produce major negative consequences for biodiversity. The possibility that amphibian and waterfowl numbers will greatly diminish in North America because of climate change in the PPR is of great concern among public and natural resource management agencies. This research will provide new understanding of the complex relationships among climate, wetland environment, and the habitat base for these and other elements of biodiversity. The research will also suggest the degree to which human adjustments (beyond reductions in greenhouse gases) such as land use changes can lessen the severity of impacts of climate change on natural ecosystems in the PPR. Finally, the study will provide preliminary information on the economic feasibility of alternative land use options and indicate the magnitude of required societal costs to achieve such outcomes.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 58 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 6 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

watersheds, integrated assessment, ecology, hydrology, modeling, agriculture,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Air, climate change, Air Pollution Effects, Environmental Monitoring, Ecological Risk Assessment, Atmosphere, anthropogenic stress, biodiversity, ecosystem impacts, environmental stressors, landscape characterization, climate variability, Global Climate Change

Relevant Websites:

Nonlinear Response of Prairie Pothole Landscapes to Climate Change and Land Management (PDF) (1 pp, 15 K)

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2007 Progress Report
  • 2008 Progress Report
  • 2009 Progress Report
  • 2010 Progress Report
  • Final Report