Prairie Pothole Region of North America

  • Kevin E. DohertyEmail author
  • David W. Howerter
  • James H. Devries
  • Johann Walker
Reference work entry


Located in the interior of North America straddling the US/Canada border, the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) encompasses more than 770,000 km2 and is one of the richest, most diverse, and unique wetland-grassland ecosystems in the world. The PPR is named for the millions of depressional wetlands called “prairie potholes” dispersed throughout the landscape. The potholes formed as subterranean masses of ice melted following the retreat of glaciers at the end of the last ice age. A majority of wetlands within the PPR are depressional and receive water by snowmelt or rain. Differences in topography, soil type, longitude, and latitude all determine the depth and ecological function of prairie potholes. Wetlands and grasslands in the PPR provide vital habitat for a diverse array of plant and animal species; large populations of migratory birds including waterfowl, waterbirds, and grassland birds depend on this habitat base during the breeding season and migration. Prairie pothole wetlands confer a variety of ecological good and services to society, but wetland drainage has substantially reduced wetland abundance relative to pre-European settlement levels. Although programs have reduced the rate of loss, more work is required to slow wetland and grassland conversion.


Adaptive management Conservation Energy development Grasslands Joint venture Landscape conservation Planning Prairie Pothole Region Wetland ecosystems 


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Copyright information

© This is a U.S. Government work and not under copyright protection in the US; foreign copyright protection may apply 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kevin E. Doherty
    • 1
    Email author
  • David W. Howerter
    • 2
  • James H. Devries
    • 2
  • Johann Walker
    • 3
  1. 1.United States Fish and Wildlife ServiceBismarckUSA
  2. 2.Ducks Unlimited CanadaStonewallCanada
  3. 3.Ducks Unlimited, Great Plains RegionBismarckUSA

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