Data from: Waterbird response to variable-timing of drawdown in rice fields after winter-flooding
Sesser, Kristin A. et al. (2018), Data from: Waterbird response to variable-timing of drawdown in rice fields after winter-flooding, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.6q5k86q
Wetland loss and degradation have been extensive across the world, especially in California's Central Valley where over 90% of the natural wetlands have been converted to agricultural and urban uses. In the Central Valley today, a much smaller network of managed wetlands and flooded agricultural fields supports almost five million waterfowl and half a million shorebirds. Over 50% of waterbird habitat in the Central Valley is provided by flooded agricultural land, primarily rice (Oryza sativa). Each year non-breeding waterbird habitat decreases in the late winter as flooded agricultural fields are drained after waterfowl hunting season in late-January to prepare for the next crop. This study evaluated a practice called 'variable drawdown' that involves delaying the removal of water from rice fields by 1, 2, and 3 weeks to extend the availability of flooded habitat later into February and March. We studied waterbird response to variable drawdown in 2012 and 2013 at twenty rice farms throughout the northern half of the Central Valley. The staggered drawdown created a mosaic of water depths throughout the six-week study period. The 3-week delay in drawdown supported more dabbling ducks than earlier drawdowns in the first half of the study and more shorebirds and long-legged wading birds during the second half of the study. The timing of highest use of each drawdown treatment differed for each waterbird guild; dabbling ducks, geese and swans benefited at the beginning, then long-legged wading birds, followed by shorebirds. Despite the presence of appropriate water depths for shorebirds across the treatments during the entire study period, shorebird densities were highest near the end of the study when the 3-week-delayed drawdown was providing the majority of the habitat on the landscape. This suggests that shorebirds may have concentrated in our study fields due to decreasing availability of shallow water habitat elsewhere. The practice of variable drawdown successfully extended the availability of waterbird habitat provided by post-harvest flooded rice fields later into winter.