Characterizing the Climate-Driven Collapses and Expansions of Wetland Habitats with a Fully Integrated Surface–Subsurface Hydrologic Model

Ganming Liu, Franklin W. Schwartz, Christopher K. Wright, Nancy E. McIntyre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Links between climatic forcing and wetland habitats can be conceptualized using a graph-theoretical approach, which treats wetlands as nodes to map habitat connectivity and to define habitat networks for ecological analysis. The first and most crucial step in creating a network model, however, is to characterize the dynamic behaviors of the nodes, i.e., the occurrence of wetlands with ponded water, or water bodies. For the first time, this study applies a 3-D, fully integrated surface and subsurface flow model, HydroGeoSphere (HGS), to simulate the hydrologic dynamics of wetlands in the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) and to characterize the resulting habitat networks as a function of climate variability. Results show HGS is able to simulate water movement in both surface and subsurface domains and capture “fill-spill” and coalescence/disaggregation behaviors of wetlands as they respond to wet and dry climatic conditions. Our simulations for a small representative subarea of the PPR show wetland networks in the PPR could easily shrink, degrade, or even collapse when the climate becomes drier. This study demonstrates the potential in applying sophisticated hydrologic models to solve critical ecological problems and the practical implications for water-resources management, conservation planning and decision-making in the PPR.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)287-297
Number of pages11
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by the National Science Foundation awards 1340648, 1544083, and 1340548 (MacroSystems Biology Program). The authors thank Drs. Young-Jin Park, Jianming Chen, and Steven Berg for their valuable assistance with the HydroGeoSphere model. Thanks also to two anonymous reviewers and Dr. David Mushet of U.S. Geological Survey for their constructive and valuable comments on this manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, Society of Wetland Scientists.


  • Climate change
  • Connectivity
  • Drought
  • Habitat networks
  • Hydrologic modeling
  • Prairie Pothole Region
  • Wetlands


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