, Volume 36, Supplement 2, pp 407–421 | Cite as

From “Duck Factory” to “Fish Factory”: Climate Induced Changes in Vertebrate Communities of Prairie Pothole Wetlands and Small Lakes

  • Kyle I. McLeanEmail author
  • David M. Mushet
  • Craig A. Stockwell
Original Research


The Prairie Pothole Region’s myriad wetlands and small lakes contribute to its stature as the “duck factory” of North America. The fishless nature of the region’s aquatic habitats, a result of frequent drying, freezing, and high salinity, influences its importance to waterfowl. Recent precipitation increases have resulted in higher water levels and wetland/lake freshening. In 2012–13, we sampled chemical characteristics and vertebrates (fish and salamanders) of 162 Prairie Pothole wetlands and small lakes. We used non-metric multidimensional scaling, principal component analysis, and bootstrapping techniques to reveal relationships. We found fish present in a majority of sites (84 %). Fish responses to water chemistry varied by species. Fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) and brook sticklebacks (Culaea inconstans) occurred across the broadest range of conditions. Yellow perch (Perca flavescens) occurred in a smaller, chemically defined, subset. Iowa darters (Etheostoma exile) were restricted to the narrowest range of conditions. Tiger salamanders (Ambystoma mavortium) rarely occurred in lakes with fish. We also compared our chemical data to similar data collected in 1966–1976 to explore factors contributing to the expansion of fish into previously fishless sites. Our work contributes to a better understanding of relationships between aquatic biota and climate-induced changes in this ecologically important area.


Climate change Climate variability Fathead minnows Fish colonization Flooding Tiger salamanders Water chemistry Wetland expansion 



We thank Dr. Martin Goldhaber and Dr. Chris Mills for providing ionic composition data used for this study. Funding for this research was provided by the U.S. Geological Survey’s Climate and Land-use Change – Research and Development Program. Authors complied with all applicable NDSU Institutional Animal Care guidelines (IACUC Protocol #13033) while conducting this research, and all required State and Federal permits were obtained. Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. We thank D. Renton, V. Aparicio, M. Bichler, and H. Incauskis for assistance with field sampling.


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Copyright information

© US Government 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kyle I. McLean
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • David M. Mushet
    • 2
  • Craig A. Stockwell
    • 3
  1. 1.Environmental and Conservation Sciences ProgramNorth Dakota State UniversityFargoUSA
  2. 2.U.S. Geological Survey, Northern Prairie Wildlife Research CenterJamestownUSA
  3. 3.Environmental and Conservation Sciences Program and Department of BiologyNorth Dakota State UniversityFargoUSA

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