An assessment of the environmental impact of drought on waterfowl in agro-Manitoba and recommendations for mitigation measures
Drought is a recurring climatic phenomenon of the northern Great Plains which include most of Agro-Manitoba. Historical and archaeological evidence indicates that cyclical dry periods have been occurring since ancient times and will continue into the future. Droughts generally have an adverse impact on wildlife and wildlife habitat. In the case of waterfowl, cyclical droughts have both positive and negative environmental impacts. Prairie dry cycles have the effect of rejuvenating wetlands and improving them as waterfowl habitat. Waterfowl have developed an equilibrium with alternating wet and dry prairie cycles, after thousands of years of evolution. Stable waters in the northern latitudes provide a place for resident and drought-displaced waterfowl to await the return of wet conditions on the prairies. Waterfowl can explosively reproduce their numbers on the fertile prairies during a wet cycle. On the negative side, droughts cause the decline of the continental populations of waterfowl because of adverse nesting conditions. Reduced populations result in reduced harvest opportunities and an economic loss. The equilibrium of waterfowl with alternating wet and dry prairie cycles has been altered by the introduction of large-scale agriculture on the prairies. Agricultural activities are responsible for the progressive elimination of wetlands which are vital for waterfowl to repopulate themselves during wet cycles. The federal grain quota is the chief policy acting against wetlands preservation. It is only recently that the true economic valuation of wildlife has been appreciated. Economists have determined methods of placing monetary valuations on wildlife. The indirect travel cost method is applicable to waterfowl at specific sites in Agro-Manitoba. Mitigation measures for the the negative environmental impacts of drought on waterfowl depend upon government policies that support wetlands preservation. There are a multitude of ways to preserve and enhance wetlands. Agricultural practices can be modified and adapted to achieve wetlands preservation.