Winter management of California rice fields for waterbirds
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1. Recent legislation designed to reduce air pollution has restricted Californian rice farmers from burning rice stubble after harvest. Intentional flooding of fields during winter to speed straw decomposition is becoming increasingly common as growers seek alternatives to burning residual straw. The potential for flooded fields to act as a surrogate for destroyed wetland habitat may be an additional benefit in a region that hosts a large proportion of North America's wintering waterbirds. We investigated the degree to which waterbirds use flooded fields and whether the method of flooding affects their use. Specifically, we tested whether waterbird use (a) was greater in intentionally flooded fields than in unflooded fields, (b) differed among flooded fields receiving different straw manipulations and (c) varied with water depth.