, Volume 36, Supplement 2, pp 237–254 | Cite as

Hydrology of Prairie Wetlands: Understanding the Integrated Surface-Water and Groundwater Processes

  • Masaki HayashiEmail author
  • Garth van der Kamp
  • Donald O. Rosenberry
Original Research


Wetland managers and policy makers need to make decisions based on a sound scientific understanding of hydrological and ecological functions of wetlands. This article presents an overview of the hydrology of prairie wetlands intended for managers, policy makers, and researchers new to this field (e.g., graduate students), and a quantitative conceptual framework for understanding the hydrological functions of prairie wetlands and their responses to changes in climate and land use. The existence of prairie wetlands in the semi-arid environment of the Prairie-Pothole Region (PPR) depends on the lateral inputs of runoff water from their catchments because mean annual potential evaporation exceeds precipitation in the PPR. Therefore, it is critically important to consider wetlands and catchments as highly integrated hydrological units. The water balance of individual wetlands is strongly influenced by runoff from the catchment and the exchange of groundwater between the central pond and its moist margin. Land-use practices in the catchment have a sensitive effect on runoff and hence the water balance. Surface and subsurface storage and connectivity among individual wetlands controls the diversity of pond permanence within a wetland complex, resulting in a variety of eco-hydrological functionalities necessary for maintaining the integrity of prairie-wetland ecosystems.


Prairie pothole Slough Water balance Wetland complex Land use Climate change 



This paper presents the culmination of our research over the past quarter century and is built on the long-term data collected by our predecessors. We thank many colleagues and students who have contributed and are still contributing to the hydrological studies of prairie wetlands in Canada and the U.S.A. In particular, this paper is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Tom Winter, who set the foundation for hydrological studies of prairie wetlands and inspired generations of wetland hydrologists. The field research program at the St. Denis National Wildlife Area was supported by the Canadian Wildlife Service, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, Environment Canada Science Horizons Program, and the Climate Change Action Fund. We thank Randy Schmidt for his many years of service in assisting with the field program. The Cottonwood Lake study area in east-central North Dakota likely would be cropland if not for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Waterfowl Protection Area on which it is located. We are grateful for the continuation of multiple decades of research at the Cottonwood Lake wetlands that is managed by David Mushet, U.S. Geological Survey. We thank Brian Neff and two anonymous reviewers for constructive suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Masaki Hayashi
    • 1
    Email author
  • Garth van der Kamp
    • 2
  • Donald O. Rosenberry
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of GeoscienceUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  2. 2.Environment CanadaSaskatoonCanada
  3. 3.U.S. Geological SurveyLakewoodUSA

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