Conservation significantly improves wetland conditions: evaluation of playa wetlands in different conservation status


This study assessed the conditions of wetland hydrology, hydrophyte and soil under different state and federal conservation programs, and then identified the restorable potential of conserved playas. The distribution of hydrology and hydrophyte were geospatially examined through annual tracking the quantity and quality of wetlands on historical hydric soil footprints under different conservation programs in the Rainwater Basin in Nebraska, USA during 2004–2015. The results show that the historical hydric soil footprints with the conservation programs had significantly better performance in ponded water and hydrophyte than non-conserved wetlands. The yearly average of ponded water areas within footprints varies at 12.59% for the Waterfowl Production Areas (WPAs), 14.78% for Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), 27.37% for Wetlands Reserve Program’s conservation easements (WRPs), and 1.86% for non-conserved wetlands, respectively. The yearly average of hydrophyte plant community coverage within footprints reaches at 77.51% for WPAs, 79.28% for WMAs, and 66.53% for WRPs, and 8.82% for non-conserved hydric footprints. Within conserved lands, Massie/Water soil series demonstrated the prominent ability to hold ponding water, especially in the ponded footprints with higher ponding frequency. Nevertheless, the proportion of Fillmore, Rusco or Butler soil series roughly decreased when the ponding water frequency increased. The areas, with high likelihood to be restored, are the places between annual ponding/hydrophyte covered areas and 11 years’ maximized ponding/hydrophyte areas.

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We also appreciate the valuable suggestions and constructive comments from the reviewers and the editors. Their comments significantly helped the improvement of this paper. This paper has been funded by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under assistance agreements (CD 97763501; CD 97753701). The contents do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the funding agencies, and do not mention the trade names or commercial products that constitute endorsement or recommendation for use. The findings and conclusions in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The research team sincerely appreciates the valuable guidance, field survey support, and data sharing support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Rainwater Basin Joint Venture, and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

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Correspondence to Zhenghong Tang.

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Zhang, H., Tang, Z., Bishop, A. et al. Conservation significantly improves wetland conditions: evaluation of playa wetlands in different conservation status. Wetlands Ecol Manage (2019) doi:10.1007/s11273-019-09696-x

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  • Playa wetland
  • Conservation programs
  • Historical hydric soil footprints
  • Ponding
  • Hydrophyte
  • Rainwater basin