Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge has eight Moist Soil Units (MSUs): impoundments that provide food as a critical part of the diet of wintering and migrating waterfowl. Moist-soil seeds and plant parts (leaves, roots, and tubers) provide energy and essential nutrients for wintering waterfowl. These wetlands also support abundant and diverse populations of invertebrates, including insects - an important protein source for waterfowl. Water levels are raised or lowered in MSU’s depending on the time of year and types of birds using the refuge.
Before late 2011, the amount of water in refuge MSU’s was totally dependent on rainfall or pumping from Lake Texoma, if the water level was high enough which often was not the case. To solve this problem, the refuge formed a partnership with Ducks Unlimited in 2010 to restore more than 200 acres of wetlands along Wildlife Drive. During this project, bottoms of the MSU’s were lowered to proper depths, almost one mile of underground 15” waterline was installed parallel with the road, and flow valves to allow the output of water were installed along the waterline. A pump located on Big Mineral Creek allows water from the ever-flowing creek to be pumped through the pipe and into the wetlands. Unless rainfall has been adequate to fill the areas to 12-18 inches deep, pumping will occur each fall. Puddle ducks such as pintail, shoveler, and teal arriving from the north find plenty of plants and insects as they tip bottom-up to forage in the marshes.
Good-quality MSUs contain mostly annual grasses, sedges, and forbs. The refuge relies on several management techniques aimed at making sure these plants remain and are not displaced by other vegetation -- plants not as valuable to wintering and migrating waterfowl. Managing water levels to flood or dry out the area, shallow and deep disking with a tractor, and mowing are the most commonly used techniques. In this way, the refuge is able to maintain the ideal plant community for MSUs and the wildlife that depend on them.
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