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Tuesday, February 7 • 10:20am - 10:40am
Symposia Session - S5: Playa Wetland Ecology. Is Food Availability a Limited Resource for Waterfowl During Spring Migration? An Energetic Assessment of Playas in Nebraska’s Rainwater Basin

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AUTHORS: Travis J Schepker, University of Missouri; Ted LaGrange, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission; Elisabeth Webb, U.S. Geological Survey, Missouri Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit

ABSTRACT: Despite a 90% decrease in wetland habitats and ongoing degradation from urban and agricultural land use, Nebraska’s Rainwater Basin (RWB) serves as a critical staging area for migratory waterfowl using the Central Flyway. During spring, waterfowl rely on playa wetlands in the RWB for opportunities to acquire energy and protein needed to complete migration and initiate egg production. Given the RWB’s annual role in sustaining relatively large waterfowl densities with limited wetland habitat, it is necessary that conservation managers obtain accurate estimates of wetland derived food resource availability to calculate energetic carrying capacity. Previous efforts estimated food density on actively managed public wetlands, however there is limited information on food density estimates at passively managed private wetlands which account for over 50% of the RWBs total wetland inventory or private wetlands that are routinely farmed. We assessed spring food availability for dabbling ducks at public, cropped, and Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) wetlands in the RWB during 2014 and 2015. Overall, seed density was greatest in cropped wetlands (mean= 608kg/ha), followed by public (mean= 590kg/ha), and finally WRP wetlands (mean= 561kg/ha). Energetic quality (true metabolizable energy) for available forage was also greatest at cropped wetlands (mean= 2.3kcal/g), followed by WRP (mean= 1.8kcal/g), and finally public wetlands (mean= 1.7kcal/g). Forage density in the RWB appears comparable to other landscape scale studies at similar latitudes, however energetic quality of forage produced was significantly less than the estimate currently used by managers in the RWB (2.5kcal/g). To our knowledge this is the only study that has evaluated these metrics at wetlands enrolled in WRP during spring. Given the relatively favorable seed production observed in this study, conservation and inundation of WRP and cropped wetlands may be a viable option to increase energetic carrying capacity for dabbling ducks in other regions.

Tuesday February 7, 2017 10:20am - 10:40am CST
Yankee Hill I/II