Rapid assessment of food production and subsequent availability is fundamental to evaluating habitat quality for waterfowl and management practices. Traditional methods of estimating food abundances (i.e., plot and core sampling) require considerable time, expertise, and cost, but rapid assessment models using plant measurements or seed-head area have recently been adapted to predict seed production in moist-soil wetlands. We evaluated existing models of seed production and estimated benthic seed density with data collected during autumn 2011 to improve these models for predicting seed availability for waterfowl. Generally, scanned seed- head area model predictions explained similar variation among published models, new models built from 2011 data, and models built using 2011 data and previously published data (R2 = 0.85–0.98). Belowground seed and energy densities differed across species relative to typical values in moist-soil wetlands (𝑥𝑥̅ = 0.4–9.1% of estimates) meaning that production estimates from models should be adjusted on a species-specific basis and the effect of belowground seeds on overall energetic carrying capacity estimates will vary with species composition of wetlands. Generally, the Moist Soil Management Advisor produced recommendations consistent with energy densities and subsequent wetland use by waterfowl; however, we found the software to be problematically outdated and very time consuming to properly parameterize. Waterfowl density in late autumn after wetlands were flooded was positively associated with seed and energy density and supported software recommendations for no active management of these wetlands. Overall, we do not recommend use of the Moist Soil Management Advisor unless significant updates to the software and user interface are completed, but do recommend use of updated most-soil rapid assessment models to predict waterfowl food availability, predict habitat use, and evaluate management practices.
|Name||INHS Technical Report 2014 (25)|