Examining Playa Wetland Contemporary Conditions in the Rainwater Basin, Nebraska

Zhenghong Tang, Jeff Drahota, Qiao Hu, Weiguo Jiang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Based on three critical criteria – soil, hydrology, and vegetation, this study examined contemporary playa wetland conditions to determine the extent of wetland degradation in the Rainwater Basin in south-central Nebraska. Geospatial statistics were used to evaluate the changes between historical hydric soil footprints and the most recent wetland survey datasets. The results indicate that the historical hydric soil footprints dominated by the Scott and Fillmore soil series have degraded 31.0% and 79.4% respectively. We also found approximately two-thirds of the footprints no longer pond water during spring migration. In fact, only 16.8% of the historical hydric soil footprints contain hydrophytes in recent surveys. Furthermore, the majority of these footprints (and the associated uplands) have been converted to cropland and no longer pond frequently or support hydrophytes. Additionally, the extensive grid road system supports commodity crop production, but in many instances this infrastructure has significantly altered wetland footprints and the associated watersheds to reduce the total water volume delivered to wetlands. The resulting situation is that conserved lands, including Waterfowl Production Areas (WPAs), Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), and conservation easements only represent 11.3% of total historical footprints, but contribute to over 40.5% of the current total ponded water and hydrophytes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-36
Number of pages12
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018


  • Conservation
  • Historical hydric soil footprint
  • Nebraska
  • Playa
  • Rainwater Basin
  • Wetland loss and degradation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecology
  • General Environmental Science


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