BISMARCK, N.D., June 4, 2015 – Ducks Unlimited biologists are studying the impact of oil and gas developments on duck production in the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) area of the Bakken oil fields. By June 12, biologists will have surveyed duck pairs in 3,000 wetlands on 62 study plots.
“We know nothing about how oil- and gas-related infrastructure in the most important habitat for breeding ducks affects waterfowl production,” said Tanner Gue, DU conservation specialist. “This study will give Ducks Unlimited’s biologists another important piece of information about what kinds of landscapes are most productive for ducks.”
The research team is surveying breeding pairs of late-nesting ducks, like blue-winged teal and gadwall. Hiking from wetland to wetland, the crew found a number of blue-winged teal nests in the upland cover. They also spotted a pair of cinnamon teal, a rare find in the PPR. The team will begin surveying broods starting July 1 and continue the study over the next few summers.
Gue says they hope the research will inform future conservation decisions. “We’re in the business of conserving wetlands and grassland habitat for North America’s waterfowl,” he said. “In our line of work, the best conservation decisions are based on strong, reliable scientific evidence.”
The Prairie Pothole Region runs through five U.S. states and three Canadian provinces. Each spring, millions of ducks and geese fly through the PPR, and nearly half of North American waterfowl breed there. Between 50 and 90 percent of potholes in some areas have been lost or damaged, making it one of the world’s most threatened ecosystems. Almost one-third of the region sits in the Bakken oil formation.
For this study, DU has partnered with Prairie Pothole Joint Venture, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Region 6 Habitat and Population Evaluation Team, and the Central Flyway Council.