, Volume 30, Issue 6, pp 1053-1064

Spatial and Temporal Variation in Wet Area of Wetlands in the Prairie Pothole Region of North Dakota and South Dakota

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Abstract

Because of their sensitivity to temperature and precipitation, wetlands in the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) are predicted to undergo changes in number, wet area, and hydroperiod as a result of climate change. However, existing PPR wetland monitoring programs are insufficient to accurately describe broad-scale variation in hydrology that might obscure signals of climate change. We assessed spatial and temporal patterns in wet area of ~40,000 wetland basins sampled each May from 1988–2007 in the U.S. PPR. The percentage of basins containing water, the wet area of basins relative to a baseline, the coefficient of variation of wet area of basins, and correlations of wet area values with values from previous years all varied temporally, spatially, and among water regimes that characterized annual duration of surface inundation. High variability in wetness suggests that monitoring programs designed to detect changes in PPR wetlands due to climate change must be implemented over broad spatiotemporal scales and consider natural and anthropogenic factors that influence water levels to be able to distinguish directional change from natural variation. Ancillary information such as annual indices of water conditions can greatly enhance the value of wetland classification schemes such as that used in the National Wetlands Inventory.