Managing for Wetland-dependent Species in Modified Landscapes

Contemporary wetland managers assigned to modified landscapes are faced with increasing complexity to maintain wetland functions and values and to meet the needs of many taxons. Historically, wetland management was driven by the drought of the 1930s when waterfowl populations were in serious decline. These conditions set the stage for a management dogma rooted in the storage rather than the manipulation of water and a focus on waterfowl. Although the first National Wildlife Refuge was for the protection of waterbirds in Florida, there was a strong focus on protecting and managing waterfowl habitats on breeding areas following the drought. Not only was the emphasis on the breeding grounds and waterfowl, but the focus was often on a single species, a selected life cycle event, or a specified time period. Thus, management often had the goal of maintaining high waterfowl populations continuously. This approach emphasized manipulations to produce foods or habitat structure required by a single species, but there was poor recognition of processes to maintain wetland productivity. Initially this approach matched limited early knowledge about wetland processes and life history needs of wetland-dependent species. As knowledge expanded about waterfowl and wetlands, it became clear that life history needs were complex and that this complexity resulted from the adaptations of wetland-dependent species to wetland variability on a spatial and temporal scale. An understanding of the historic and contemporary geomorphic and hydrologic setting, climatic variability, chronology of life history events, as well as requirements needed for survival and reproduction of plants and animals was needed for success. A few managers incorporated this new information into their thinking and initiated management actions to maintain wetland processes that enhanced wetland productivity. Because wetland productivity accommodates life history needs of a wide suite of wetland-dependent species, population size varied over time depending upon how well species needs were met because of annual and long-term variability. Thus, contemporary wetland managers are most successful when they recognize spatial and temporal scales and initiate manipulations that maintain processes to provide multiple benefits to many species. Keywords: wetland, waterfowl, management NO PAPER WAS SUBMITTED WITH THIS ABSTRACT.

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