Balancing the land use change in the Midwest

Problem Title

Balancing the land use change in the Midwest

Scientific Title

Hydrologic characterization of a prairie pothole wetland restoration in Brookings, South Dakota; determining its viability as a resource to waterfowl

Student: 
Anthony Damiano
Major(s): 
Environmental Science
iCons Concentration: 
Renewable Energy
iCons Class Year: 
Class of 2015
Executive Summary 

Fred Errington is a retired professor of Anthropology and colleague of my thesis advisor, Paul Barten, who approached Paul with a unique project having to do with the hydrology of a piece of land outside of Brookings, South Dakota. The goal is to determine the hydrology behind such a restoration from farmland back to prairie pothole wetlands. The notion of converting perfectly fertile farmland back to wetland is met with utter outrage and disbelief in the Midwest. As the human population continues to grow, every piece of fertile land has exceeding amounts of value in terms of food and energy crops. But what about the cultural value to those who have hunted this land for generations? And what about the value these wetlands represent as sources of clean water, water purification and wildlife habitat?

Commonly available climate and stream flow data from the United States Geologic Survey and South Dakota State University has been compiled to determine; 1) the structure and function of the site 2) inter annual dynamics of the system 3) viability of the land to support waterfowl and 4) predictions and forecast analysis using wettest and driest years on record. This information is used to determine a lower threshold from a hydrologic standpoint; what are the absolute minimums in terms of water level, food availability and extent of cover to protect against predators?

I hope my research will build support towards the restoration of the prairie pothole region. It is a pivotal area of the United States that demands proper environmental management that balances sustainable food production, clean energy, and environmental mitigation.

Problem Keywords: 
prairie
restoration
wildlife habitat
Scientific Keywords: 
hydrology
prairie pothole