Habitat helps ducks adapt to hotter, drier weather

DU grant promotes restoring and protecting habitat to mitigate potential climate impacts

Wildlife Conservation Society Climate Adaptation Fund grant is helping DU restore 647 acres of South Dakota grassland and 62 wetland basins.

Wildlife Conservation Society Climate Adaptation Fund grant is helping DU restore 647 acres of South Dakota grassland and 62 wetland basins.

The Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) historically cycles from very wet to very dry conditions. Although climate models vary, most predict more frequent hotter, drier periods and more very wet springs and summers. Ducks Unlimited received a grant that will help restore wetland and grassland habitat on working lands in the PPR to aid ducks and other wildlife during temperature and precipitation extremes.

 

“Research shows the best way to mitigate potential climate impacts to waterfowl and other wetland-dependent species in the PPR is to restore and protect critical habitats in targeted areas,” said Ducks Unlimited Biologist Bruce Toay. “Our project targets specific areas of South Dakota with high densities of breeding duck pairs. We also look to restore habitat adjacent to existing natural habitat already protect by conservation easements.”

 

The project includes restoring 62 wetland basins and 647 acres of grassland, and is partially funded by a $174,900 grant from the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Climate Adaptation Fund. Matches from Ducks Unlimited and other partners brings the project total to almost $377,000.

 

“We promote rotational grazing on some of the grass restorations by installing necessary infrastructure like cross-fencing and water development. Managed grazing can maximize the amount of water filtering into the soil from precipitation,” Toay said.“The restored wetlands will provide water for livestock and ducks over hot and dry summers.”

Toay says building habitat refuges that retain agricultural productivity will hold the maximum amount of runoff from snow melt and intense rain. The wetlands and grasslands will filter impurities to improve water quality and buffer flood impact. Rotational grazing systems will help improve livestock production on the grasslands.

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