Nebraska Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit


Date of this Version



Jorgensen, C.F., A.A. Bishop, D.R. Uden, and R. Grosse. Rainwater Basin Wetland Inundation Decision Support System Guide. Rainwater Basin Joint Venture Report, Grand Island, NE, U.S.A.


US government work.


The Rainwater Basin region of south-central Nebraska, U.S.A., is a critical stopover location for migratory waterfowl, waterbirds and shorebirds traveling along the Central Flyway. The ephemeral playa wetlands in the region serve as spring staging areas, providing critical habitat for migrating birds to rest, feed and establish pairs before resuming their northward migration to the breeding grounds. Collectively, the playa wetlands found in the region form the Rainwater Basin Wetland Complex, encompassing a 6,150 square-mile area of rolling loess plains that extend over 21 counties. Analyses of the State’s historic soil surveys (1910-1917), National Wetland Inventory (NWI; 1980-1982; U.S. Geological Survey 1999) and the Soil Survey Geographic Database (SSURGO; 1961-2004) indicated that approximately 11,000 individual playa wetlands once existed in the landscape. Since European settlement, however, approximately 90% of wetlands in the region have been destroyed due to land-use intensification. Furthermore, many of the remaining wetlands are severely degraded and may lack functionality altogether. Despite these losses, remnant and restored playas continue to serve as important spring migratory stopover locations for a variety of avian species.