Wildlife Damage Management, Internet Center for


Date of this Version



Published in Aquatic Ecosystem Health & Management, 7(1):73–84, 2004. DOI: 10.1080/14634980490281335


We compared the macroinvertebrate and amphibian communities of 12 excavated and 12 natural wetlands in western North Dakota, USA, to assess the effects of artificially lengthened hydroperiods on the biotic communities of wetlands in this semi-arid region. Excavated wetlands were much deeper and captured greater volumes of water than natural wetlands. Most excavated wetlands maintained water throughout the study period (May to October 1999), whereas most of the natural wetlands were dry by June. Excavated wetlands were largely unvegetated or contained submergent and deep-marsh plant species. The natural wetlands had two well-defined vegetative zones populated by plant species typical of wet meadows and shallow marshes. Excavated wetlands had a richer aquatic macroinvertebrate community that included several predatory taxa not found in natural wetlands. Taxa adapted to the short hydroperiods of seasonal wetlands were largely absent from excavated wetlands. The amphibian community of natural and excavated wetlands included the boreal chorus frog (Pseudacris maculata), northern leopard frog (Rana pipiens), plains spadefoot (Scaphiopus bombifrons), Woodhouse’s toad (Bufo woodhousii woodhousii), and tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum). The plains spadefoot occurred only in natural wetlands while tiger salamanders occurred in all 12 excavated wetlands and only one natural wetland. Boreal chorus frogs and northern leopard frogs were present in both wetland types; however, they successfully reproduced only in wetlands lacking tiger salamanders. Artificially extending the hydroperiod of wetlands by excavation has greatly influenced the composition of native biotic communities adapted to the naturally short hydroperiods of wetlands in this semi-arid region. The compositional change of the biotic communities can be related to hydrological changes and biotic interactions, especially predation related to excavation.