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Tuesday, February 7 • 8:20am - 8:40am
Symposia Session - S5: Playa Wetland Ecology. How Playa Wetlands Influence Landscape Biodiversity: Small Depressions with Big Benefits

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AUTHORS: Willow Malone, Kansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Division of Biology, Kansas State University; David A. Haukos, US Geological Survey, Kansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Division of Biology, Kansas State University

ABSTRACT: Playa wetlands are keystone ecosystems of the Great Plains supporting large numbers of migratory and resident avian species. Playas support a unique biotic community composition, while providing resources and habitats for waterfowl, grassland passerines, and other migratory birds. Playas provide the unique function of the primary recharge points for the Ogallala Aquifer. The largest threats to playas include watershed disturbance and anthropogenic modifications. Understanding effects of landuse on biodiversity of the playas is crucial for the conservation planning. Avian and floral diversity are key indicators of ecological function and provide a quantitative assessment of playa functionality. Our study was conducted in the western portion of the Smoky Hill River, Kansas, watershed, a landscape dominated by irrigated cropland. Our objective was to determine the relative contribution of playas to the biodiversity of the landscape and compare avian and floral communities in playa wetlands surrounded by grassland versus cropland watersheds. We conducted breeding bird surveys using point counts in >25 playa wetlands with crop or grassland watersheds and in paired, non-playa sites. We recorded avian relative abundance, species richness, and occupancy. We recorded plant species composition using step-point transects. There was no difference in avian diversity between playas in a cropland watershed and surrounding non-playa areas. Avian diversity and richness in grassland watersheds were 25% and 55% greater than surrounding non-playa areas, respectively. Furthermore, avian diversity and richness were greater by 38% and 66% in inundated playas than dry playas. Plant communities had a 66% greater diversity and 58% greater richness in playa wetlands surrounded by a grassland watershed than a cropland watershed. As the majority of playa wetlands are located on private lands, it is important to reduce watershed disturbance and anthropogenic influence on playa wetlands to maintain landscape heterogeneity and biodiversity at local, regional, and continental scales.

Tuesday February 7, 2017 8:20am - 8:40am CST
Yankee Hill I/II

Attendees (5)