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New computer model to improve wetland management for birds in arid regions

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If implemented, managers could nearly double area of productive wetland habitat using existing resources

September 2, 2016

In arid Utah, a marshy wetland, teeming with aquatic life and migratory birds is among the most cherished natural resources in the state. But with shrinking water supplies and invasive vegetation, effectively managing these unique landscapes is becoming increasingly difficult. That’s why researchers at Utah State University have developed a new tool to help wetland managers create healthier, more productive wetlands and make them easier to manage. The team developed a computer model that produced two key findings: first, to more dramatically alter water levels in individual diked wetland units and, second, to focus efforts on invasive plant control at a specific time of year. The study was published Sept. 1 in Water Resources Research ….

The team collaborated with managers and biologists and applied the computer model at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, the largest freshwater component of the Great Salt Lake ecosystem. The Refuge is recognized internationally as an important feeding, resting and breeding ground for millions of migratory birds on the Pacific and Central Flyways. Study co-author David Rosenberg, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at USU, says if refuge managers implement the model’s recommendations, they could nearly double the area of productive wetland habitat using existing resources.

“We found that more dynamically altering the water levels in wetland units at the refuge improves habitat for migratory birds,” said Rosenberg. Omar Alminagorta, a former postdoctoral associate at the Utah Water Research Lab and USU Associate Professor Karin M. Kettenring, a wetland ecologist, co-authored the study…

Omar Alminagorta, David E. Rosenberg, Karin M. Kettenring. Systems modeling to improve the hydroecological performance of diked wetlands. Water Resources Research, 2016; DOI: 10.1002/2015WR018105

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