Submitted to: Mississippi Water Resources Research Conference Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/1/1998
Publication Date: N/A
Interpretive Summary: Waterfowl and agriculture are closely associated during several periods of the annual life cycle. Of particular importance are wintering areas that receive and support waterfowl for several months each year. In the Mississippi River floodplain wintering area, agriculture is a predominant landscape feature that waterfowl adapted to after massive conversion of floodplain forest to farmland during the past 100 years. Recent waterfowl management strategies have focused on maximizing the function of farmland to waterfowl while maintaining agricultural practices, a combination resulting in an extensive field flooding effort. We report data on waterfowl use and water quality of flooded agricultural fields as compared to more natural waterfowl habitats. Results from this study indicate that waterfowl extensively use flooded agricultural land, water quality parameters differ between flooded fields and more natural wetlands, and potential relationships exist between waterfowl and water quality parameters. Ultimately combined research efforts by wildlife managers and water quality researchers are needed to clarify these relationships. This information may be useful to wildlife managers, agricultural scientists, and ecologists.
Technical Abstract: A common management practice in Mississippi is post-harvest flooding of agricultural fields. We conducted three field experiments to determine how seasonally flooded cropland may influence both waterfowl and water quality. Our objectives were: (1) determine the influence of crop type on the number of waterfowl observed within flooded agricultural fields, (2) determine differences of several water quality parameters collected from flooded agricultural fields and moist-soil wetlands, and (3) determine waterfowl use of flooded cropland by monitoring diurnal activities. We detected no difference of dabbling duck densities within flooded fields containing soybean and Japanese millet. Several water quality parameters differed between flooded agricultural fields and moist-soil impounded wetlands. Suspended solids, total solids, coliforms, and enterococci concentrations were greater in flooded fields than moist-soil impoundments. Differences of waterfowl activities between habitats were predominantly resting and feeding. The information from these results may be applied toward managing flooded habitats in a temporal context. We suggest that strategies utilized to enhance water quality of runoff from fields and provide habitat to wintering waterfowl be incorporated to maximize the usefulness of field flooding.