Playa Clusters in Nebraska
Playas are small, temporary wetlands that function to recharge the High Plains Aquifer. Playas are important wetland habitats for a variety of wildlife, including waterfowl and other birds in the Nebraska. Playa clusters represent groups or complexes of playas that likely provide increased benefits to wildlife as compared to playas that are more sparsely distributed.
Research shows that clusters of playas are more frequently used by migrating waterfowl and shorebirds than sparsely distributed playas. Playa clusters were defined by identifying areas with either high playa density or high playa surface area (http://www.pljv.org/playa-dss/nebraska).
The Rainwater Basin
The Rainwater Basin and adjacent central Platte River are complimentary and create a macro wetland complex that provide essential spring staging habitat for millions of waterfowl, shorebirds, and Sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis). The Rainwater Basin provides a unique resting and feeding location for birds during their northern migration. The network of shallow playa wetlands combined with nearby agricultural fields provides nutrient rich food sources needed by the birds to store energy during migration.
Studies conducted in this area indicate that many of the birds travel several kilometers (km) daily from roosting to foraging locations. Northern pintails (Anas acuta) fly, on average, 4.3 km during their evening forage flights (Pearse et al. 2011). Daily movements for white-fronted geese (Anser albifrons) and snow geese (Chen caerulescens) were 2.3 km and 3.4 km, respectively (A.T. Pearse, U.S. Geological Survey, unpublished data). In addition, Sandhill cranes were observed feeding up to four km from the Platte River, where they roost (Pearse et al. 2010). Bird use of individual wetlands can vary annually due to the dynamic nature of water availability; therefore, flight paths from roosting to foraging areas are variable.
How this map was used: Playas in the Rainwater Basin were classified as Maximum Mitigation Areas. All other playas were classified as Moderate Mitigation Areas.