Wetland Restoration in Canada’s Prairie Ecozone 2010-11

Goals and Objectives

Ducks Unlimited Canada and PHJV’s shared vision for the Canadian Prairie Ecozone is a mosaic of natural, restored and managed landscapes capable of perpetually sustaining populations of waterfowl and other wildlife.

Goal 1:  No loss of wetlands.
Goal 2:  Restore wetlands in areas with cover suitable for nesting waterfowl.
Goal 3:  No loss of native or naturalized cover.
Goal 4:  Restore perennial upland cover, and cover that functions as perennial cover for nesting waterfowl

Wetland restoration objectives stated in the 2007-2012 PHJV Implementation Plan equal 10,800 acres. Small wetlands are the primary target for restorations (e.g. 0.75 acre), but size may range from 0.1 to 40.0 acres (assume overall average = 1.5 acres). The majority of the objectives are projected for Alberta (7000 acres or 4,667 basins). Total estimated cost of this activity over this term in the PHJV is $9.6 million. Medium to large wetland restorations (typically engineered structures) are not included in these figures.


Ducks Unlimited Canada defines small wetland restorations as physical works that reestablish the natural hydrology of a natural wetland basin caused by drainage. Wetland restorations occur only on protected lands, ranging from long-term, highly secure lands (e.g., purchase, conservation easement) through medium-term, moderately secure lands (conservation agreements, management agreements, or leases, all minimum 10 year terms). Wetland restorations may include partial or completely drained wetland basins. Physical works involve minor earthwork to infill the drainage channel and re-contour the outlet to its original state. Re-vegetation of restored wetlands normally occurs rapidly and naturally without seeding. This multi-year project requires an ongoing inventory of new projects which typically require about one year from the time of initial identification, survey, design, approvals and construction. Construction usually occurs from summer through fall of each year.

Restoration activities and opportunities are enhanced by other programs conducted by Ducks Unlimited Canada and PHJV partners, namely extension and communication efforts that raise the profile and importance of wetlands. Ducks Unlimited Canada and PHJV partners are also actively engaged in promoting and informing public policies and legislation that support or facilitate wetland protection and restoration opportunities.

Specific Habitat Products/Results to be Supported by WHC’s Contributions

An estimated 205 acres (or 136 wetland basins) would be restored based on a requested grant amount of $150,000*. Average wetland basin size would equal 1.5 acres, ranging between 0.1 to 40.0 acres in size. Most basins would be restored to seasonal or semi-permanent types (Stewart & Kantrud classification system Class III – IV). Typical ¼-sections include average 9 restorable basins, suggesting approximately 15 land parcels receiving enhancements. Lands would include a mix of private and purchased lands. An example of wetland habitat restoration results is provided in figure 3.

*Note: projection based on estimated restoration cost/basin = $1,100. Cost includes land securement and restoration (enhancement) only, and may be applied to both direct and applied direct costs.

Benefits to Waterfowl, Wetlands-Associated Species, and/or Other Wildlife

Expected benefits for waterfowl are estimated for populations at landscapes scales by applying productivity models, including inputs of wetland and/or upland changes. This process will be undertaken periodically by DUC/PHJV to test population trends and determine NAWMP partners’ impact.

Project-level benefits are provided conceptually as follows: each small wetland restoration adds one to several additional breeding pairs per year. These additional breeding pairs then contribute fledged young each year at a rate that considers the local nest success rate, hen survival rate and brood survival rate. When wetlands are restored in tandem with nesting cover, nest success and other vital rates increase. Research has confirmed high temporal and spatial variability in the example provided, further complicating the ability to project waterfowl benefits. Principle waterfowl species include: Canada goose, mallard, northern pintail, gadwall, American wigeon, green-winged teal, blue-winged teal, northern shoveler, redhead, canvasback, and lesser scaup.

Breeding and migratory benefits are provided to a broad range of other wetland-dependent species, as documented by NAWMP-supported research.  Evaluation continues to expand benefit assessment of wetland restoration beyond wildlife, to include a broad suite of ecological goods and services.

Relevance to Habitat Planning, Decision Making and/or Management

The importance of wetland restoration to success of the PHJV has been fully realized and integrated due to the Waterfowl Productivity Model and Pintail Productivity Model. Their outputs created a paradigm shift from one dominated by habitat retention to one of habitat retention, and further, that the habitat focus on uplands needed to shift to a focus on wetlands. With decisions and planning complete across the entire PHJV membership, the short-term task is to implement and evaluate this new emphasis by PHJV partners.

Project Location

Consistent with PHJV boundaries, projects will be located throughout the Prairie Ecozone PLUS the Peace Lowland and Boreal Transition Ecoregions of the Boreal Plain Ecozone.

Relevant ecoregion/ecozone: Prairie Ecozone
(http://atlas.gc.ca/site/english/maps/environment/ecology/framework/ecological framework)

Relevant water basin(s): Hudson Bay: Nelson Drainage Basin and Internal Drainages Systems. (http://atlas.gc.ca/site/english/maps/environment/hydrology/drainage basins).

Relevant Bird Conservation Region: #11

Grant funds would be directed to NAWMP target and priority landscapes in Alberta, where long-term, high densities of breeding waterfowl occur and restoration needs are greatest.

Project Contact

For more information on this project, please contact Michael Barr, NAWMP Specialist, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Camrose, AB.