Inundation of Playa Wetlands in the Western Great Plains Relative to Landcover Context
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Playa wetlands in the western Great Plains of the United States are an essential component of the ecological and hydrological systems in the region. However, these wetlands are threatened through culturally-accelerated sedimentation from the surrounding row-crop dominated landscape. As a consequence, conservation efforts have focused mainly on installing Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) grasslands around playas but these may impede water from reaching playa basins. Thus, better understanding of the factors that influence inundation is needed for effective conservation of playas. The objectives of this project were to investigate the effects of hydrological factors, landcover at local and watershed scales, and thresholds for playa inundation in a variety of landscape conditions. We used generalized linear mixed modeling to determine the landscape and hydrological factors that influence playa inundation. We found playa inundation was positively related to amount of rainfall in the previous 14 days, the variation in amount of rainfall, playa area and the slope of the surrounding landscape. After accounting for hydrological factors, we found CRP adjacent to the playa and CRP in the watershed had a larger influence on playa inundation than the landcover of Pasture or Grassland. There was a negative non-linear effect of CRP on playa inundation and evidence for a negative linear effect at the watershed scale. Playa conservation is an integral component of the Ogallala Initiative, and Farm Bill programs such as CRP are essential conservation tools thus it is imperative that we understand potential impacts of such programs in order to inform improvements.