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PhD Defense - Nicholas Smeenk

Assessing the Ecological Condition of Nebraska’s Wetland Resources and Amphibian Communities

Date: Time: 2:00 pm–3:00 pm
Hardin Hall Room: 901
Additional Info: HARH
Contact: Craig Allen, callen3@unl.edu
Wetlands provide valuable ecosystem services including flood control, nutrient retention, recreational opportunities, and wildlife habitat. Despite their importance, wetlands were historically displaced across the landscape in favor of alternative land uses. While general trends in wetland area have been tracked, the ecological condition of wetlands remains largely unknown. From 2011 – 2013, I conducted ecological assessments at 109 wetland sites in 11 wetland complexes across Nebraska. Using a novel standardized Floristic Quality Assessment Index score and additional vegetative metrics I determined the ecological condition of wetland sites. I subsequently tested the efficacy of multiple landscape methods and metrics as additional measures of ecological condition. Additionally, I assessed the detection and occupancy of amphibian communities in the Rainwater Basins using both landscape and local factors. Responses of plant and amphibian communities to landscape and local factors were varied and complex. Results of this research provide baseline data for Nebraska’s wetlands and wetland reliant amphibian communities. Further, they illustrate the need to consider multiple spatial scales and the importance of spatial context for ecosystem conservation planning and management. While plant communities thrive with minimal 100 m vegetative buffers, other taxa such as anurans and birds may respond to factors at much larger spatial scales and require broader planning and consideration of landscape context, particularly in highly modified agricultural landscapes.

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