, Volume 67, Issue 1-2, pp 195-215

Monitoring the Hydrology of Canadian Prairie Wetlands to Detect the Effects of Climate Change and Land Use Changes

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Abstract

There are millions of small isolatedwetlands in the semi-arid Canadian prairies. These`sloughs' are refuges for wildlife in an area that isotherwise intensively used for agriculture. They areparticularly important as waterfowl habitat, with morethan half of all North American ducks nesting inprairie sloughs. The water levels and ecology of thewetlands are sensitive to atmospheric change and tochanges of agricultural practices in the surroundingfields. Monitoring of the hydrological conditions ofthe wetlands across the region is vital for detectinglong-term trends and for studying the processes thatcontrol the water balance of the wetlands. Suchmonitoring therefore requires extensive regional-scaledata complemented by intensive measurements at a fewlocations. At present, wetlands are being enumeratedacross the region once each year and year-roundmonitoring is being carried out at a few locations. Theregional-scale data can be statistically related toregional climate data, but such analyses cast littlelight on the hydrological processes and have limitedpredictive value when climate and land use arechanging. The intensive monitoring network has providedimportant insights but it now needs to be expanded andrevised to meet new questions concerning the effects ofclimate change and land use.