Stafford, J. D., A. P. Yetter, C. S. Hine, R. V. Smith, and M. M. Horath. 2011. Seed abundance for waterfowl in wetlands managed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management 2:1–11.
Managed wetlands on public lands in Illinois, United States, provide foraging habitats for migrating and wintering waterfowl. However, few studies have estimated abundances of waterfowl foods in mid-migration regions of North America, yet such information is needed to inform management and conservation decision-making. During 2005–2007, we used a multistage sampling design to estimate moist-soil plant seed production (kg/ha, dry mass) and energetic carrying capacity at sites managed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and modeled variation in seed biomass. Average seed biomass among all sites ranged from 1,030.0 ± 64.1 (SE) kg/ha in 2005 to 501.5 ± 124.1 kg/ha in 2007. Our overall estimate (2005–2007) of moist-soil plant seed biomass was precise (691.3 ± 56.4 kg/ha; CV: 8.2%), equaling 5,128 energetic use-days/ha. This value was similar to or slightly greater than previous estimates from other regions of North America and exceeded the estimate used the Upper Mississippi River and Great Lakes Region Joint Venture for waterfowl conservation planning (514 kg/ha). We formulated eight models to predict abundance of moist-soil plant seeds within sampled wetlands. The best approximating model included the number of desirable plant species within wetlands and study year. The second best model included the categorical effect of management intensity and indicated that, although variable, actively managed wetlands produced about 240 kg/ha more seed than those that were passively managed. As with other regions, wetland management practices that encourage diverse plant communities over monotypes and growth of early successional plants should yield substantial increases in waterfowl food abundances at Illinois Department of Natural Resources sites, especially given that only 27% of our study wetlands were actively managed. Such efforts would also help reduce deficits in energetic carrying capacity identified by the Upper Mississippi River and Great Lakes Region Joint Venture.