Prairie wetland complexes as landscape functional units in a changing climate

W. Carter Johnson, Brett Werner, Glenn R. Guntenspergen, Richard A. Voldseth, Bruce Millett, David E. Naugle, Mirela Tulbure, Rosemary W.H. Carroll, John Tracy, Craig Olawsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

138 Scopus citations


The wetland complex is the functional ecological unit of the prairie pothole region (PPR) of central North America. Diverse complexes of wetlands contribute high spatial and temporal environmental heterogeneity, productivity, and biodiversity to these glaciated prairie landscapes. Climate-warming simulations using the new model WETLANDSCAPE (WLS) project major reductions in water volume, shortening of hydroperiods, and less-dynamic vegetation for prairie wetland complexes. The WLS model portrays the future PPR as a much less resilient ecosystem: The western PPR will be too dry and the eastern PPR will have too few functional wetlands and nesting habitat to support historic levels of waterfowl and other wetland-dependent species. Maintaining ecosystem goods and services at current levels in a warmer climate will be a major challenge for the conservation community.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)128-140
Number of pages13
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded by the US Geological Survey, Biological Resources Division Climate Change Program; and by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program, managed by the EPA’s Office of Research and Development, National Center for Environmental Research. STAR research supports the agency’s mission to safeguard human health and the environment. Tom Tornow, of the US Fish and Wildlife Service in Madison, South Dakota, has made the Orchid Meadows field site (Severson Waterfowl Production Area) available to our project on a long-term basis. Susan Boettcher assisted in field data collection at Orchid Meadows for many years. We acknowledge the foundational research in prairie wetland ecology by Karen Poiani, George Swanson, Arnold van der Valk, Milton Weller, and Thomas Winter.


  • Climate change
  • Hydrology
  • Numeric models
  • Prairie pothole wetlands
  • Waterfowl

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