Response of avian community to willow ring mangement in Prairie Pothole Wetlands
Wetlands surrounded by willow vegetation (willow rings) within the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) are an important part of the prairie landscape. They provide habitat for wildlife, remove agricultural runoff, and reduce soil salinity. However, willow rings in the PPR are continually destroyed to increase crop production. Recently willow rings have been targeted as a renewable source of biomass for bioenergy operations because it is adapted for quick growth following harvest. Management of willow vegetation from wetlands will increase the economic incentive to retain wetlands intact on the prairie landscape. However, there is currently, little known about the avian species inhabiting willow rings or the impact that harvesting natural willow vegetation will have on these species. My research will look at the natural variation in willow ring coverage and age to simulate harvest treatments of willow rings. Point counts will provide information on the bird species that use each wetland as well as how birds react to changes in willow vegetation structure. Comparisons of high and low density wetland areas across different land cover types will be used to demonstrate any habitat preferences bird species may have. The results of this research will determine the impact that willow harvest will have on avian populations inhabiting these wetlands. This research can then be used to create guidelines for sustainable willow ring management practice in the future.