Landscape Ecology

, Volume 27, Issue 10, pp 1435–1450 | Cite as

Landscape heterogeneity and the effect of environmental conditions on prairie wetlands

  • Ivar Herfindal
  • Mark C. Drever
  • Kjell-Arild Høgda
  • Kevin M. Podruzny
  • Thomas D. Nudds
  • Vidar Grøtan
  • Bernt-Erik Sæther
Research Article


Populations can vary considerably in their response to environmental fluctuations, and understanding the mechanisms behind this variation is vital for predicting effects of environmental variation and change on population dynamics. Such variation can be caused by spatial differences in how environmental conditions influence key parameters for the species, such as availability of food or breeding grounds. Knowing how these differences are distributed in the landscape allows us to identify areas that we can expect the highest impact of environmental change, and where predictions on population dynamical effects will be most precise. We evaluated how wetland dynamics in the North-American prairies (pond counts; a key parameter for several waterfowl populations) were related to spatial and temporal variation in the environment, as measured by weather variables, primary productivity and phenology derived from annual normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) curves, and agricultural composition of the landscape. Spatial and temporal variation in pond counts were closely related to these environmental variables. However, correlation strength and predictive ability of these environmental variables on wetland dynamics varied considerably across the study area. This variation was related to landscape characteristics and to the spatial scaling of the wetland dynamics, such that areas with late onset of spring, low spring temperature, high primary productivity, and high proportion of cropland had more predictable and spatially-homogenous dynamics. The success of predicting environmental influences on wetlands from NDVI measures derived from satellite images indicates they will be useful tools for assessing effects of changing landscape and climatic conditions on wetland ecosystems and their wildlife populations.


Agricultural influence Climate effect Environmental phenology NDVI North American prairie Landscape variation Spatial heterogeneity Waterfowl Wetland ecology 

Supplementary material

10980_2012_9798_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (235 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 236 kb)


  1. Adam S, Wiebe J, Collins M, Pietroniro A (1998) Radarsat flood mapping in the Peace–Athabasca Delta, Canada. Can J Remote Sens 24:69–79Google Scholar
  2. Beeri O, Phillips RL (2007) Tracking palustrine water seasonal and annual variability in agricultural wetland landscapes using Landsat from 1997 to 2005. Glob Chang Biol 13:897–912Google Scholar
  3. Benton TG, Plaistow SJ, Coulson TM (2006) Complex population dynamics and complex causation: devils, details and demography. Proc R Soc Lond B 273:1173–1181CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bethke RW, Nudds TD (1995) Effects of climate change and land use on duck abundance in Canadian prairie-parklands. Ecol Appl 5:588–600CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bjørnstad ON, Falck W, Stenseth NC (1995) Geographic gradients in small rodent density-fluctuations—a statistical modelling approach. Proc R Soc Lond B 262:127–133CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Conly FM, van der Kamp G (2001) Monitoring the hydrology of Canadian prairie wetlands to detect the effects of climate change and land use changes. Environ Monit Assess 67:195–215PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Crissey WF (1969) Prairie potholes from a continental viewpoint. Can Wildl Serv Rep Ser 6:161–171Google Scholar
  8. Cromsigt JPGM, Prins HHT, Olff H (2009) Habitat heterogeneity as a driver of ungulate diversity and distribution patterns: interaction of body mass and digestive strategy. Divers Distrib 15:513–522CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Donaldson DD, Nisbet RM (1999) Population dynamics and spatial scale: effects of system size on population persistence. Ecology 80:2492–2507CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Drever MC (2006) Spatial synchrony of prairie ducks: roles of wetland abundance, distance, and agricultural cover. Oecologia 147:725–733PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Drever MC, Clark RG (2007) Spring temperature, clutch initiation date and duck nest success: a test of the mismatch hypothesis. J Anim Ecol 76:139–148PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Drever MC, Nudds TD, Clark RG (2007) Agricultural policy and nest success of prairie ducks in Canada and the United States. Avian Conserv Ecol 2:5.
  13. Engen S, Lande R, Sæther BE, Bregnballe T (2005) Estimating the pattern of synchrony in fluctuating populations. J Anim Ecol 74:601–611CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Euliss NH, Mushet DM, Wrubleski DA (1999) Wetlands of the prairie pothole region: invertebrate species composition, ecology, and management. In: Batzer DP, Rader RB, Wissinger SA (eds) Invertebrates in freshwater wetlands of North America: ecology and management. Wiley, New York, pp 471–514Google Scholar
  15. Euliss NH, LaBaugh JW, Fredrickson LH, Mushet DM, Laubhan MK, Swanson GA, Winter TC, Rosenberry DO, Nelson RD (2004) The wetland continuum: a conceptual framework for interpreting biological studies. Wetlands 24:448–458CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Forcey GM, Linz GM, Thogmartin WE, Bleier WJ (2007) Influence of land use and climate on wetland breeding birds in the Prairie Pothole region of Canada. Can J Zool 85:421–436CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fryxell JM, Wilmshurst JF, Sinclair ARE, Haydon DT, Holt RD, Abrams PA (2005) Landscape scale, heterogeneity, and the viability of Serengeti grazers. Ecol Lett 8:328–335CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Graham MH (2003) Confronting multicollinearity in ecological multiple regression. Ecology 84:2809–2815CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Grøtan V, Sæther BE, Engen S, Solberg EJ, Linnell JDC, Andersen R, Brøseth H, Lund E (2005) Climate causes large-scale spatial synchrony in population fluctuations of a temperate herbivore. Ecology 86:1472–1482CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Grøtan V, Sæther BE, Filli F, Engen S (2008) Effects of climate on population fluctuations of ibex. Glob Chang Biol 14:218–228CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Grøtan V, Sæther BE, Lillegård M, Solberg EJ, Engen S (2009) Geographical variation in the influence of density dependence and climate on the recruitment of Norwegian moose. Oecologia 161:685–695PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hanski I, Gilpin M (1996) Metapopulation biology: ecology, genetics and evolution. Academic Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  23. Herfindal I, Sæther BE, Solberg EJ, Andersen R, Høgda KA (2006) Population characteristics predict responses in moose body mass to temporal variation in the environment. J Anim Ecol 75:1110–1118PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Illius AW, O’Connor TG (2000) Resource heterogeneity and ungulate population dynamics. Oikos 89:283–294CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Johnson DH, Grier JW (1988) Determinants of breeding distributions of ducks. Wildl Monogr 100:1–37Google Scholar
  26. Johnson WC, Millett BV, Gilmanov T, Voldseth RA, Guntenspergen GR, Naugle DE (2005) Vulnerability of northern prairie wetlands to climate change. BioScience 55:863–872CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Johnson WC, Werner B, Guntenspergen GR, Voldseth RA, Millett B, Naugle DE, Tulbure M, Carroll RWH, Tracy J, Olawsky C (2010) Prairie wetland complexes as landscape functional units in a changing climate. BioScience 60:128–140CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Karlsen SR, Elvebakk A, Høgda KA, Johansen B (2006) Satellite-based mapping of the growing season and bioclimatic zones in Fennoscandia. Glob Ecol Biogeogr 15:416–430CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Krapu GL, Greenwood RJ, Dwyer CP, Kraft KM, Cowardin LM (1997) Wetland use, settling patterns, and recruitment in mallards. J Wildl Manag 61:736–746CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Laakso J, Kaitala V, Ranta E (2004) Non-linear biological responses to environmental noise affect population extinction risk. Oikos 104:142–148CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Larson DL (1995) Effects of climate on numbers of northern Prairie wetlands. Clim Chang 30:169–180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Levin SA (1992) The problem of pattern and scale in ecology. Ecology 73:1943–1967CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Miller MW (2000) Modeling annual mallard production in the prairie-parkland region. J Wildl Manag 64:561–575CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Mitchell TD, Jones PD (2005) An improved method of constructing a database of monthly climate observations and associated high-resolution grids. Int J Climatol 25:693–712CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Niemuth ND, Wangler B, Reynolds RE (2010) Spatial and temporal variation in wet area of wetlands in the Prairie Pothole Region of North Dakota and South Dakota. Wetlands 30:1053–1064CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Nudds TD, Elmberg J, Pöysä H, Sjöberg K, Nummi P (2000) Ecomorphology in breeding Holarctic dabbling ducks: the importance of lamellar density and body length varies with habitat type. Oikos 91:583–588CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Oliver T, Roy DR, Hill JK, Brereton T, Thomas CD (2010) Heterogeneous landscapes promote population stability. Ecol Lett 13:473–484PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Pearce-Higgins JW, Dennis P, Whittingham MJ, Yalden DW (2009) Impacts of climate on prey abundance account for fluctuations in a population of a northern wader at the southern edge of its range. Glob Chang Biol 16:12–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Pettorelli N, Ryan S, Mueller T, Bunnefeld N, Jedrzejewska B, Lima M, Kausrud K (2011) The normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI): unforeseen successes in animal ecology. Clim Res 46:15–27CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Pinzon J, Brown ME, Tucker CJ (2005) Satellite time series correction of orbital drift artifacts using empirical mode decomposition. In: Huang N (ed) Hilbert–Huang transform: introduction and applications. World Scientific, Singapore, pp 167–186Google Scholar
  41. Podruzny KM, Devries JH, Armstrong LM, Rotella JJ (2002) Long-term response of northern pintails to changes in wetlands and agriculture in the Canadian Prairie Pothole Region. J Wildl Manag 66:993–1010CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Pouliot D, Latifovic R, Olthof I (2009) Trends in vegetation NDVI from 1 km AVHRR data over Canada for the period 1985–2006. Int J Remote Sens 30:149–168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Rotella JJ, Ratti JT (1992) Mallard brood survival and wetland habitat conditions in Southwestern Manitoba. J Wildl Manag 56:499–507CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Sæther BE, Engen S, Møller AP, Matthysen E, Adriaensen F, Fiedler W, Leivits A, Lambrechts MM, Visser ME, Anker-Nilssen T, Both C, Dhondt AA, McCleery RH, McMeeking J, Potti J, Røstad OW, Thomson D (2003) Climate variation and regional gradients in population dynamics of two hole-nesting passerines. Proc R Soc Lond B 270:2397–2404CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Sæther BE, Sutherland WJ, Engen S (2004) Climate influences on a population dynamics. Adv Ecol Res 35:185–209CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Sæther BE, Engen S, Grøtan V, Fiedler W, Matthysen E, Visser ME, Wright J, Møller AP, Adriaensen F, Van Balen H, Balmer D, Mainwaring MC, McCleery RH, Pampus M, Winkel W (2007) The extended Moran effect and large-scale synchronous fluctuations in the size of great tit and blue tit populations. J Anim Ecol 76:315–325PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Sæther BE, Lillegård M, Grøtan V, Drever MC, Engen S, Nudds TD, Podruzny KM (2008) Geographical gradients in the population dynamics of North American prairie ducks. J Anim Ecol 77:869–882PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Smith GW (1995) A critical review of the aerial and ground surveys of breeding waterfowl in North America. Biological Science Report No. 5. U.S. Department of the Interior, National Biological Service. Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  49. Smith AG, Stoudt JH, Gollop JB (1964) Prairie potholes and marshes. In: Linduska JP (ed) Waterfowl tomorrow. U.S. Gov. Printing Office, Washington, DC, pp 39–50Google Scholar
  50. Sorenson LG, Goldberg R, Root TL, Anderson MG (1998) Potential effects of global warming on waterfowl populations breeding in the Northern Great Plains. Clim Chang 40:343–369CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Statistics Canada (2009) Canadian agriculture at a glance. Catalogue no. 96-325-XWE. Accessed 25 May 2012
  52. Stoms DM, Hargrove WW (2000) Potential NDVI as a baseline for monitoring ecosystem functioning. Int J Remote Sens 21:401–407CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Tilman D, Kareiva PM (1997) Spatial ecology: the role of space in population dynamics and interspecific interactions. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  54. Tucker CJ, Pinzon JE, Brown ME, Slayback D, Pak EW, Mahoney R, Vermote E, El Saleous N (2005) An Extended AVHRR 8-km NDVI data set compatible with MODIS and SPOT Vegetation NDVI Data. Int J Remote Sens 26:4485–5598CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. US Department of Agriculture (2009) 2007 Census of Agriculture. United States Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service, Washington, DC. Accessed 25 May 2012
  56. van der Kamp G, Stolte WJ, Clark RG (1999) Drying out of small prairie wetlands after conversion of their catchments from cultivation to permanent brome grass. Hydrol Sci J 44:387–397CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Verstraete MM, Pinty B, Myneni RB (1996) Potential and limitations of information extraction on the terrestrial biosphere from satellite remote sensing. Remote Sens Environ 58:201–214CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Visser ME, Both C, Lambrechts MM (2004) Global climate change leads to mistimed avian reproduction. Adv Ecol Res 35:89–110CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Walker PA, Mallawaarachchi T (1998) Disaggregating agricultural statistics using NOAA-AVHRR NDVI. Remote Sens Environ 63:112–125CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wiens JA (1989) Spatial scaling in ecology. Funct Ecol 3:385–397CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Woods SN (2006) Generalized additive models—an introduction with R. Chapman & Hall, Boca RatonGoogle Scholar
  62. Wright C, Gallant A (2007) Improved wetland remote sensing in Yellowstone National Park using classification trees to combine TM imagery and ancillary environmental data. Remote Sens Environ 107:582–605CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Zoffoli ML, Kandus P, Madanes N, Calvo DH (2008) Seasonal and interannual analysis of wetlands in South America using NOAA-AVHRR NDVI time series: the case of the Parana Delta Region. Landscape Ecol 23:833–848CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ivar Herfindal
    • 1
  • Mark C. Drever
    • 2
  • Kjell-Arild Høgda
    • 3
  • Kevin M. Podruzny
    • 4
  • Thomas D. Nudds
    • 5
  • Vidar Grøtan
    • 1
  • Bernt-Erik Sæther
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Conservation Biology, Department of BiologyNorwegian University of Science and TechnologyTrondheimNorway
  2. 2.Pacific Wildlife Research CentreEnvironment CanadaDeltaCanada
  3. 3.NORUTTromsøNorway
  4. 4.Department of EcologyMontana State UniversityBozemanUSA
  5. 5.Department of Integrative BiologyUniversity of GuelphGuelphCanada

Personalised recommendations