2008 Progress Report: 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 , Olker, Jennifer H. , Guntenspergen, Glenn R. , Millett, Bruce V , Rashford, Ben , 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 , University of Wyoming
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 Period Covered by this Report: July 1, 2007 through June 30,2008
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


Our research has five objectives:

  1. Use and modify as needed a new climate driven wetland dynamics model (WETLANDSCAPE) to identify and characterize threshold responses of prairie potholes to climate change and land management.
  2. Select model output variables and develop indices known to be climate sensitive and to exert significant control of biodiversity in pothole wetlands.
  3. Evaluate with field data the role of existing and potential terrestrial land management (farming) practices coded in WETLANDSCAPE and the economic consequences associated with the various cropping options.
  4. Simulate thresholds in model responses to climate change and human-induced land management alternatives.
  5. Continue monitoring of wetland surface water and groundwater well levels at two long-term field sites to facilitate model parameterization and testing.

Progress Summary:

Consistent with objective (1), our team has conducted several calibration exercises on WETLANDSCAPE in year 2 of our project to ready the model for our first set of papers that examine the effect of climate change on the prairie wetland complex. Two papers are now in draft stage (see publications section below). One takes a broad look at the wetland complex (vegetation, hydrology, waterfowl) across the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) under several climate change scenarios, while another focuses on amphibians under the same climate scenarios.

Progress on objective (2) was made by developing a new index for semi-permanent members of the wetland complex that establishes optimal climatic conditions for waterfowl production. Departures from the optimal scores constitute a quantitative assessment of the effects of both spatial and temporal variability in future climate across the PPR. We see this new index as an improvement over that used in our recent BioScience article (Johnson et al. 2005). Additionally, we have devised a graphic method of evaluating the effects of climate change on the production potential for waterfowl, amphibians and other wetland organisms in seasonal wetlands that have life history thresholds linked to wetland hydroperiod. This method plots the percentage of time that specific hydroperiod thresholds are reached or exceeded against several climate scenarios. Our analyses show the percentage of years with a minimum hydroperiod threshold of about 100 days per year (a general average time requirement for waterfowl and amphibians to complete their life cycles) would be reduced by as much as 75% with a 4 degree C increase in air temperature at some weather stations.

Good progress was made in year 2 on linking WETLANDSCAPE simulations to effects of climate change on amphibians in prairie wetlands. Results from year 2 (see Olker ms. in preparation below) regarding amphibians indicate that although semipermanent wetlands are less affected by temperature increases, they cannot entirely replace the preferred seasonal wetland breeding habitat, as they make up only ~8% of all wetlands in the PPR (compared to 42% for seasonal wetlands). Additionally, semipermanent wetlands often support predator and parasite populations that can greatly impact amphibian breeding success. Our modeling suggests that viable water levels for sustaining amphibian populations could shift to southern and eastern regions of the PPR. These areas already contain much a lower wetland density and higher agricultural pressure. Such landscape conditions are not optimal for leopard frog breeding.

Adaptation of farming practices to mitigate adverse impacts of climate change on wetland water levels is a potential watershed management option as described in objective (3). WETLANDSCAPE has now been modified to incorporate land-use options as model variables. Specifically, in addition to grassland, we have now incorporated row crops (e.g. corn), small grain (e.g. wheat) and grazing options into WETLANDSCAPE. This new capability for WETLANDSCAPE enables us to start conducting an economic analysis of duck productivity under climate change (objective 3). Data from the wetland simulations of alternative climate scenarios are now being used to examine the economic outcomes of alternative management strategies for breeding waterfowl. The results of this study will: 1) determine whether intensive management activities can cost-effectively mitigate the effects of climate change on breeding waterfowl, and 2) describe how the costs of mitigating climate change effects on waterfowl change under alternative climate scenarios. WETLANDSCAPE model simulations are complete, and productivity modeling and economic analyses are currently being worked into a draft manuscript (see Rashford et al. in preparation below).

WETLANDSCAPE is now ready for use in conducting analyses of non-linear or threshold effects associated with incremental climate change (objective 4). Work during the past 2 years to test and evaluate model components, develop capacity to evaluate economic consequences of management, and construction of a new series of temperature and precipitation scenarios for our modeling using CLIMGEN based on the most recent IPCC GCM’s have prepared us for these non-linear analyses. Evaluation of possible future climates outside the confines of historic climate using CLIMGEN will be the basis for our second set of papers in year 3.

Consistent with objective (5), model parameterization and calibration in the past year has been improved by having upgraded stage recorders installed and tested at our long-term Orchid Meadows and Crystal Springs field sites and a new field site at Goebel Ranch (near Aberdeen, SD) completed in 2008. Water levels in 34 wetlands are now estimated every 30 minutes during the growing season, compared to 2 week intervals during our previous studies. Weather data from our Orchid Meadows field site also has been greatly improved by installation of a remote weather station in 2007 with real time access via the Internet.

Journal Articles on this Report : 3 Displayed | Download in RIS Format

Other project views: All 58 publications 7 publications in selected types All 6 journal articles
Type Citation Project Document Sources
Journal Article Johnson WC, Werner B, Guntenspergen GR, Voldseth RA, Millett B, Naugle DE, Tulbure M, Carroll RWH, Tracy J, Olawsky C. Prairie wetland complexes as landscape functional units in a changing climate. BioScience 2010;60(2):128-140. R833016 (2008)
R833016 (2009)
R833016 (2010)
R833016 (Final)
  • Full-text: BioOne-Full Text HTML
  • Abstract: BioOne-Abstract
  • Other: BioOne-Full Text PDF
  • Journal Article Voldseth RA, Johnson WC, Gilmanov T, Guntenspergen GR, Millett BV. Model estimation of land-use effects on water levels of northern Prairie wetlands. Ecological Applications 2007;17(2):527-540. R833016 (2007)
    R833016 (2008)
    R833016 (Final)
  • Abstract from PubMed
  • Full-text: ResearchGate-Full Text PDF
  • Abstract: ESA-Abstract
  • Journal Article Voldseth RA, Johnson WC, Guntenspergen GR, Gilmanov T, Millett BV. Adaptation of farming practices could buffer effects of climate change on Northern Prairie wetlands. Wetlands 2009;29(2):635-647. R833016 (2008)
    R833016 (2009)
    R833016 (2010)
    R833016 (Final)
  • Full-text: ResearchGate-Full Text PDF
  • Abstract: Springer-Abstract
  • Supplemental Keywords:

    ecological effects, non-linear effects, ecosystem, scaling, modeling, climate models, biodiversity, threshold, North Dakota-ND, South Dakota-SD, Iowa-IO, Minnesota-MN, Canadian Prairies,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Air, climate change, Air Pollution Effects, Environmental Monitoring, Ecological Risk Assessment, Atmosphere, anthropogenic stress, biodiversity, environmental stressors, ecosystem impacts, landscape characterization, climate variability, Global Climate Change

    Relevant Websites:

    http://wetlandscape.sdstate.org exit EPA

    Progress and Final Reports:

    Original Abstract
  • 2007 Progress Report
  • 2009 Progress Report
  • 2010 Progress Report
  • Final Report