2010 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 , Werner, Brett , Tulbure, Mirela , Fay, Phil , Adams, Richard , Voldseth, Richard
Institution: South Dakota State University , Agricultural Research Service , United States Geological Survey [USGS] , University of Wyoming , 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 Period Covered by this Report: July 1, 2009 through June 30,2010
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


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:

In year 4 of our project, our principal analytical tool, the mathematical model WETLANDSCAPE (WLS) was fully functional and used as the core of several subprojects (objective 1).  These include simulation of climate thresholds for wetland productivity, climate change impacts on amphibians, economic factors involved in alteration of wetland ecological conditions caused by climate change, and generation of  a new series of  temperature and precipitation scenarios for our modeling using CLIMGEN based on the most recent IPCC GCMs.  During this period (February 2010), our first major paper (“Prairie wetland complexes as landscape functional units in a changing climate”) using WLS was published as the feature article (our field site used as the cover image) in the high impact journal BioScience (see full citation below). This paper takes a broad look at the wetland complex (vegetation, hydrology, waterfowl) across the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) under several climate change scenarios. 

 Objective 2 was met in years 3 and 4 by developing several analytical methods or indices to evaluate the effect of climatic conditions on wetland productivity.  One of these was the development and testing of a new wetland productivity index (Cover Cycle Index, CCI) described in detail in the BioScience (2010) article. Additionally, we 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. This method also was described and introduced in the BioScience (2010) paper. These two new methods are now part of the WLS model and graphical output and are used in all of our current subprojects to evaluate the effects of climate scenarios on wetland productivity.   

Adaptation of farming practices to mitigate adverse impacts of climate change on wetland water levels is a potential watershed management option (objective 3). This objective was completed in year 4 of the project by completing modification of WLS to simulate land cover as a variable, following the methods used to modify the WETSIM model, the precursor to WLS (Voldseth, et al., 2009). Research was completed during year 4 to determine whether intensive management activities can cost-effectively mitigate for the effects of climate change on breeding waterfowl and to describe how the costs of mitigating climate change effects on waterfowl change under alternative climate scenarios. Papers describing this research now are complete and ready for submission to appropriate journals (see publications list).

We have addressed objective 4 by developing a graphical approach to detect threshold or non-linear effects on wetland productivity with increasing temperature. Temperature thresholds at which wetland productivity sharply worsened were identified for each weather station in the PPR. These temperature thresholds vary widely across the PPR; eastern stations reach temperature thresholds at much warmer temperatures, while most western stations will reach serious thresholds with only slightly warmer temperatures. A manuscript that describes the broad patterns of threshold effects is being prepared now and is expected to be submitted soon. 

Consistent with objective 5, monitoring of wetland water levels was continued through 2010 for Orchid Meadows, Crystal Springs, and Goebel Ranch field sites. Water levels in 40 wetlands (total from our 3 sites) were recorded every 30 minutes during the growing season. Weather data from our Orchid Meadows remote station also were collected in 2010.

Our project has gone beyond the 5 original objectives above to use WLS to determine if wetland productivity already has been affected by climate change.  Thus, we have used WLS for the first time in hindcast mode to see if there is evidence that our CCI scores lowered (worsened) from one 30 year weather period (1945-1975) to a more recent 30 year period (1975-2005).  The simulations indicate that the western portion of the PPR (primarily the Canadian prairies) warmed considerably during the second half of the 20th century causing reduced cover cycle index scores and a geographic pattern that strongly resembles the future trends expected from a two degree warming in the mid-21st century (Johnson, et al., 2010). These findings are very significant because they suggest that climate change has already made its mark on prairie wetlands and the observed (not projected) historical trends are nearly identical to those expected from climate change projections.  These results are being written up now, and we think they may be publishable in Science or Nature.    

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 Millett B, Johnson WC, Guntenspergen G. Climate trends of the North American prairie pothole region 1906-2000. Climatic Change 2009;93(1-2):243-267. R833016 (2007)
    R833016 (2009)
    R833016 (2010)
    R833016 (Final)
  • Full-text: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources-Full Text PDF
  • Abstract: Springer-Abstract
  • Other: ResearchGate-Full Text PDF
  • 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-IA, 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

    Progress and Final Reports:

    Original Abstract
  • 2007 Progress Report
  • 2008 Progress Report
  • 2009 Progress Report
  • Final Report