Interactions Among Climate, Humans and Playa Wetlands on the Southern High Plains

EPA Grant Number: R829641
Title: Interactions Among Climate, Humans and Playa Wetlands on the Southern High Plains
Investigators: McMurry, Scott T. , Dayawansa, W. P. , Dixon, K. R. , Martin, C. F. , Smith, L. M. , Theodorakis, C. W. , Willis, D. B.
Current Investigators: McMurry, Scott T. , Dayawansa, W. P. , Smith, L. M. , Willis, D. B.
Institution: Towson University
EPA Project Officer: Hiscock, Michael
Project Period: July 1, 2002 through June 30, 2005 (Extended to June 30, 2006)
Project Amount: $900,000
RFA: Assessing the Consequences of Global Change for Aquatic Ecosystems: Climate, Land Use, and UV Radiation (2001) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Global Climate Change , Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration , Water , Ecosystems , Climate Change


The hydroperiod of a playa wetland is influenced by climate (e.g., temperature, frequency and amount of rainfall), landscape (e.g., grassland, cropland), and the current amount of sediment in the playa. Sedimentation in a playa is influenced by the type of landscape surrounding it, such that land use surrounding a particular playa ultimately affects its hydroperiod. We hypothesize that climatic variability, and past, current, and future land use practices (e.g., crop production, conversion to grasslands) dictate hydroperiod and spatial distribution of wet playas. This, in turn, influences the ecological structure of vegetation and animal communities that rely on playa lakes for many life history requisites.


Amphibian, avian, and plant communities will be described for 40 playas with varying hydroperiods in grassland and cropland landscapes. Climate stations at each playa will provide local information on precipitation, temperature, etc. These data will be incorporated into models and/or used to test model predictions to understand the interaction between climate changes and land use patterns, and their influence on sedimentation in and hydroperiod of playa wetlands. Several existing models will be used and integrated to predict the direct and interactive effects of changing climate and land use practices on playa wetland dynamics, and responses of agricultural producers to changes in climate and costs of production over time.

Expected Results:

This research will generate two sets of complimentary results. The first set of results will provide understanding of the direct effects climatic change will have on the ecology of the playa lake systems, agricultural land productivity (both cropland and grassland), and agricultural input requirements (fertilizer, water, seed, etc.) in the Southern High Plains. The second set of results will compliment the first set, and focus on the human dimension of climatic change, and will answer two important questions. First, how will agricultural producers modify land management practices to mitigate the effect of climatic change, and secondly, how will these changes in agricultural resource management impact the ability of playa lake ecological systems to adapt to climatic change.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 12 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

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

Supplemental Keywords:

Disturbance, ecosystem, cropland, wildlife, zoology, biology, ecology, water, global climate, precipitation, ecological effects, animal, mathematics, social science, modeling, surveys, general circulation models, Southwest, agriculture., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Air, Water, Hydrology, Water & Watershed, climate change, Atmospheric Sciences, Ecological Risk Assessment, Watersheds, anthropogenic stress, water resources, anthropogenic processes, wetlands, environmental monitoring, global change, regional hydrologic vulnerability, agricultural watershed, hydrologic models, playa wetlands, climate models, agriculture, vulnerability assessment, temperature variables, land and water resources, landscape characterization, climate variability, Global Climate Change, land use

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2003 Progress Report
  • 2004
  • 2005
  • Final Report