, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 587-593

Water-level fluctuation in wetlands as a function of landscape condition in the prairie pothole region

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Abstract

We evaluated water-level fluctuation (maximum water depth — minimum water depth/catchment size) in 12 temporary, 12 seasonal, and 12 semipermanent wetlands equally distributed among landscapes dominated by tilled agricultural lands and landscapes dominated by grassland. Water levels fluctuated an average of 14.14 cm in wetlands within tilled agricultural landscapes, while water levels in wetlands within grassland landscapes fluctuated an average of only 4.27 cm. Tillage reduces the natural capacity of catchments to mitigate surface flow into wetland basins during precipitation events, resulting in greater water-level fluctuations in wetlands with tilled catchments. In addition, water levels in temporary and seasonal wetlands fluctuated an average of 13.74 cm and 11.82 cm, respectively, while water levels in semipermanent wetlands fluctuated only 2.77 cm. Semipermanent wetlands receive a larger proportion of their water as input from ground water than do either temporary or seasonal wetlands. This input of water from the ground has a stabilizing effect on water-levels of semipermanent wetlands. Increases in water-level fluctuation due to tillage or due to alteration of ground-water hydrology may ultimately affect the composition of a wetland’s flora and fauna. In this paper, we also describe an inexpensive device for determining absolute maximum and minimum water levels in wetlands.