Long-billed Dowitchers feeding. Joint venture scientists, the Great Plains Landscape Conservation Cooperative and state partners in Nebraska are working to develop science-based strategies that can help resource managers increase resilience of Rainwater Basin wetlands to climate change. Photo: Joel Jorgensen/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
During spring migration, as shorebirds, waterfowl and waterbirds make their way from wintering habitats to their northern breeding grounds, the broad Central flyway migratory corridors constrict in central Nebraska, funneling millions of birds through the state’s Rainwater Basin Wetland Complex.
Rainwater Basin wetlands are shallow playa wetlands that fill each spring with snowmelt. The flooded wetlands provide critical foraging habitat for millions of waterfowl and shorebirds annually. While in the Rainwater Basin, birds acquire significant energy and nutrient reserves that they will need to continue migration and initiate nesting.
In addition to providing critical resting habitat for birds, Rainwater Basin wetlands are the major source of groundwater recharge to the region’s aquifer – meaning they help replenish underground water, ensuring a sustainable supply for birds and humans.
During the past decade, the Rainwater Basin Joint Venture has acquired geo-referenced aerial photographs and is analyzing them in a Geographical Information System to monitor and delineate available habitat and contemporary wetland function. With funding provided by the Great Plains Landscape Conservation Cooperative, joint venture scientists and their colleagues with Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and the Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit are analyzing these data in the context of climate change.