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Energetic implications of floodplain wetland restoration strategies for waterfowl

Sarah E. McClain, Heath M. Hagy, Christopher S. Hine, Aaron P. Yetter, Christopher N. Jacques, John W. Simpson
Restoration ecology 2019 v.27 no.1 pp. 168-177
annuals, aquatic plants, carrying capacity, conservation areas, floodplains, grasses, growing season, habitats, hydrologic cycle, marshes, migratory birds, perennials, plant communities, rivers, vegetation, waterfowl, Illinois River, United States
Modifications of the Illinois River and associated tributaries have resulted in altered hydrologic cycles and persistent river‐floodplain connections during the growing season that frequently impede the establishment of hydrophytic vegetation and have reduced value for migratory waterfowl and other waterbirds. To help guide floodplain restoration, we compared energetic carrying capacity for waterfowl in two wetland complexes along the Illinois River under different management regimes during 2012–2015. The south pool of Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge (CNWR) was seasonally flooded due to a partial river connection and managed for moist‐soil vegetation. Emiquon Preserve was hydrologically isolated from the Illinois River by a high‐elevation levee and managed as a semipermanently flooded emergent marsh. Semipermanent emergent marsh management at Emiquon Preserve produced 5,495 energetic use‐days (EUD)/ha for waterfowl and other waterbirds across wetland cover types and years, and seasonal moist‐soil management at CNWR produced 6,199 EUD/ha in one of 4 years. At Emiquon Preserve, the aquatic bed cover type produced 9,660 EUD/ha, followed by 5,261 EUD/ha in moist‐soil, 1,398 EUD/ha in persistent emergent, 1,185 EUD/ha in hemi‐marsh, and 12 EUD/ha in open water cover types. At CNWR, the annual grass and sedge cover type produced 7,031 EUD/ha, followed by 5,618 EUD/ha in annual broadleaf and 1,305 EUD/ha in perennial grass cover types. Restoration of floodplain wetlands in isolation from frequent flood pulses during the growing season can produce hemi‐marsh and aquatic bed vegetation communities that provide high‐quality habitat for waterfowl and which have been mostly eliminated from large river systems in the Midwest, U.S.A.