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Development of conservation and climate adaptation strategies for wetlands in the Great Plains LCC region

Dr. Gene Albanese, Post-Doctoral Research Associate

Project Supervisors:
Dr. David Haukos
Dr. Susan Skagen

Dr. Mindy Rice
Dr. David Hamilton

U.S. Geological Survey

Location: Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Colorado

Saline lakes (above) and playa wetlands are the primary wetland types of the High Plains.

Completion: September 2015

Status: Completed

(1) Conduct a network analysis of playa wetlands.
(2) Determine the effect of playa loss on delivery of ecosystem goods and services.

Progress and Results:
Playa wetlands are the primary habitat for numerous wetland-dependent species in the Southern Great Plains of North America. Plant and wildlife populations that inhabit these wetlands are reciprocally linked through the dispersal of individuals, propagules and ultimately genes among local populations. To develop and implement a framework using network models for conceptualizing, representing and analyzing potential biological flows among 48,981 spatially discrete playa wetlands in the Southern Great Plains. We examined changes in structural and functional connectivity patterns and assessed the relative importance of wetlands to maintaining these patterns by targeting wetlands for removal based on network centrality metrics weighted by estimates of habitat quality and probability of inundation. We identified several distinct, broad-scale sub networks and phase transitions among playa wetlands in the Southern Plains. In particular, for organisms that can disperse > 2 km a dense and expansive wetland sub network emerges in the Southern High Plains. This network was characterized by localized, densely connected wetland clusters at link distances (h) > 2 km but < 5 km and was most sensitive to changes in wetland availability (p) and configuration when h = 4 km, and p = Δ0.2 - 0.4. It transitioned to a single, large connected wetland system at broader spatial scales even when the proportion of inundated wetland was relatively low (p = 0.2). Our findings suggest that redundancy in broad and fine-scale connectivity patterns insulate this system from damage and facilitate system-wide connectivity among populations with different dispersal capacities..



Albanese, G., and D. Haukos. 2017. Toward a theory of connectivity among depressional wetlands of the Great Plains: resiliency to natural and anthropogenic disturbance within a wetland network. In Press in E. Beever, S. Prange, and J. Franklin (editors). Disturbance Ecology and Biological Diversity: Context, Nature, and Scale. CRC Press/Taylor and Francis Group.

Albanese, G., and D.A. Haukos. 2016. A network model framework for prioritizing wetland conservation in the Great Plains. Landscape Ecology. 32:115-130.


Albanese, G. 2015. Development of conservation and climate adaptation strategies for wetlands in the Great Plains LCC region, Final Report. GP LCC, USFWS. 135pp.

Professional Presentations:

Haukos, D. A. and G. Albanese. 2017. Use of Network Analysis to Prioritize Conservation of Playa Wetlands Based on Landscape Connectivity. Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference, Lincoln, NE.

Albanese, G., and D. Haukos. 2015. A framework for understanding connections within dense broad-scale habitat networks: prioritizing wetlands for conservation within a dynamic landscape. Annual meeting of the Society of Wetland Scientists, Providence, RI. (Invited speaker)

Haukos, D.A. and G. Albanese. 2014. Conservation of Playa Wetlands at the Appropriate Scale - Using Networks to Identify Critical Playas. Department of Natural Resources Management Seminar, Texas Tech University (Invited).