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World Leader in Wetlands Conservation

Ducks Out of Water

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  • photo by Terry Pike
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by Scott Yaich, Ph.D.

As demands on our freshwater supplies continue to increase, certain water users and interest groups may find themselves becoming increasingly disregarded and dehydrated

Without question, water is the single most important habitat requirement for waterfowl and many other wildlife species. Continental duck populations rise and fall in direct response to wet-and-dry cycles on their breeding areas, which influences the number of wetlands available to support breeding pairs in the spring.

Unfortunately, the growth and complexity of society are exerting ever-increasing pressure on North America 's finite water resources. The United States has already lost 115 million acres of wetlands—more than half the original total—and continues to lose more than 100,000 acres of wetlands every year. If wetland losses continue at that pace, waterfowl are destined to face the equivalent of permanent drought conditions on many of their most important breeding, migration, and wintering areas.

Wetlands and water are equally important to people. Our bodies are mostly (65 percent) water. Water makes up most of the volume of the foods we eat (beef, 74 percent; potatoes, 80 percent, etc.). Only 3 percent of the earth's entire water supply is made up of freshwater, however, and only a tiny fraction of that is contained within lakes, rivers, wetlands, and reservoirs. (The majority of the planet's freshwater is locked as icecap in Antarctica and Greenland .) With the global human population projected to increase by 4 billion during this century, water quality and conservation are clearly among the most important issues facing people and wildlife in North America and beyond.

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