Jeff Masters Weather Blog

Climate change could dry up ideal duck habitat in the Northern Plains » Yale Climate Connections

Every year, millions of ducks nest across the Prairie Pothole region — a vast area of the northern Great Plains dotted with shallow, seasonal wetland ponds.

“So on a square mile here in eastern North Dakota or parts of Manitoba, we’ll have anywhere from 100 to 150 wetlands — tiny little wetlands — and that’s perfect for most ducks,” says Frank Rohwer, president and chief scientist of Delta Waterfowl, a hunting and conservation organization.

He says that over the years, many of these wetlands have been drained for agriculture. And climate change could affect the ones that remain.

The seasonal wetland ponds depend on rain and snowmelt.

Research suggests that as temperatures warm, evaporation will reduce water levels in the ponds. And there may not be enough rain or snowmelt at the right times and in the right places to replenish the lost water.

Given these risks, Rohwer says wetland conservation is especially critical.

“That’s sort of job No. 1, for waterfowl people, is to keep wetlands from being drained,” he says — so that across the region, there are enough places for ducks to nest and breed year after year.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media

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