Effects of surrounding land use on playa inundation following intense rainfall

Alison B. Cariveau, David C. Pavlacky, Andrew A. Bishop, Theodore G. Lagrange

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Many isolated wetlands that fill by rainfall, such as playas, have been affected by sedimentation in heavily modified agricultural landscapes. Conservation plantings and buffers reduce sedimentation in wetlands but also may reduce the frequency of inundation. We studied the effects of surrounding landcover on the responses of playas in southwestern Nebraska to heavy rain events using aerial photography, ground surveys, and GIS landscape analyses. Using a generalized linear mixed model, we found that playas in rangeland were more likely to become inundated than playas in cropland, and both were more likely to become inundated than playas in fields enrolled in USDA's Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), typified by tall, dense grasses. Inundation was also positively related to rainfall amount and playa size. Our results highlight the significance of maintaining playas in native prairie and underscore the importance of planting and managing appropriate mixes of native shortgrass and/or mixed-grass prairie species surrounding playas to mimic the vegetative structure of native prairie. In light of historic wetland losses, a reduction in the probability of flooding for individual playas in CRP must be weighed against the protection from sedimentation that buffers afford wetlands in cropland and other beneficial influences of CRP in the landscape.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-73
Number of pages9
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC) and the PLJV funded this project from the USFWS State Wildlife Grant Program and Conoco-Phillips, respectively. We thank NGPC biologists Douglas Ekberg, Mike Fritz, Tim Hermansen, Emily Munter, and Sarah Rehme; Kelsi Niederklein of Pheasants Forever; and RMBO staff Crystal Bechaver, Jennifer Blakesley, Luke Caldwell, Cliff Cordy, Derek Hill, Lacrecia Johnson, Marie-Melissa Kalamaras, Sarah Manor, Christopher Nicholson, Larry Snyder, Rob Sparks, Emily Steel, and Eric Sytsma for their hard work on this project. We thank Jacob Erdman at the USFWS Great Plains GIS Partnership and Megan McLachlan at PLJV for their assistance with aerial photography interpretation and GIS data analysis. We thank Nadine Bishop and Claudia Stevenson of the NRCS for hand-delineating playa watersheds and supporting a field surveyor, respectively. We thank Joel Jorgensen, Mike Gilbert, Tim McCoy, Ritch Nelson, and Mark Vrtiska for comments on drafts of this manuscript.


  • Conservation Reserve Program
  • Herbaceous buffer
  • Hydrology
  • Infiltration
  • Nebraska
  • Runoff
  • Sedimentation


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