The Prairie Pothole Region

The Prairie Pothole Region is found in the northern Great Plains of North America. The region consists of grass-covered wetland habitats covered with few-to-many shallow depressions called either potholes or sloughs, and they were made 10,000 years ago as glaciers retreated. Prairie potholes are usually filled with water and are included in many habitat restoration projects.

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Many of the potholes have been drained for agriculture along with other types of wetland habitats, but current habitat restoration projects are bringing some of this area back. The Prairie Pothole Joint Venture, for example, has restored or enhanced more than six million acres of habitat over the past 15 years.

The Prairie Pothole Joint Venture (PPJV), established in 1987 as one of the original six priority joint ventures under the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, protects, restores and enhances high priority wetland/grassland habitat to help sustain populations of waterfowl, shorebirds, waterbirds and prairie landbirds. – ppjv.org

Blue-winged Teal – typical “dabbling duck” of prairie potholes
Blue-winged Teal

Benefits of Prairie Potholes

  • Prairie potholes are key to bringing back wetland wildlife, breeding grounds for ducks, shorebirds, and gamebirds, not to mention hundreds of non-bird species.
  • Prairie potholes store sediments that would otherwise fill in streams and lakes and trap harmful chemicals that could pollute water.
  • Prairie potholes store water from heavy rains, especially in spring, and release it slowly, preventing flooding.
  • Prairie potholes filter nutrients for wetland and prairie plants to use and keep them from putting too many nutrients in streams and rivers.

The Prairie Pothole Region is one of the many grassland/wetland habitat types that is 50-90 percent degraded. Grasslands receive the least amount of conservation attention, a trend that we hope to help change.

A Few Places to Find Prairie Pothole Restoration and Habitat

  1. Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge Complex in South Dakota
  2. Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge in North Dakota
  3. The Morris Wetland Management District in Minnesota
  4. Rochon Sands Provincial Park in Alberta, Canada

One thought on “The Prairie Pothole Region

  1. Its one of my fantasies to go up there and see where the BWT nest, because they are an integrating part of my research work, but I only get to see em when they are adults, it would be cool to see the little ducklings…so nice!

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