Cover

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Frontmatter

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Contents

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p. vii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-xi

List of Tables

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pp. xiii-xiv

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Preface

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pp. xv-xvi

In December 1983, the first time I visited the Southern High Plains, I was interviewing for an assistant professor position at Texas Tech University. Upon landing at the airport in Lubbock, I remarked to my host, Henry Wright, “Wow, this is a flat place.” I had been warned by others before my visit that “you will probably find this one of the flattest places you’ve ever been.” Certainly many people find flat landscapes less visually...

PLAYAS AND THEIR ENVIRONMENT

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p. 1

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Chapter 1: What Is a Playa?

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pp. 3-28

“Playa” and its synonym “playa lake” are a couple of those vague terms like “swamp” or “marsh” that are generally used to describe some type of wetland. Playa is also a Spanish word with an English translation of shore or beach. The translation provides little help in describing a playa. If the titular question is asked relative to a particular geographic region, such as New Mexico, it becomes somewhat easier to answer, though the result is still not...

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Chapter 2: Origin and Development

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pp. 29-42

Although most people from forested and mountainous areas outside of the Plains may find the western prairies aesthetically “boring,” geologists consider the High Plains one of the most interesting and challenging arenas in North America. This is especially true of the Southern High Plains, where most playas occur, and where the formation of this huge plateau and its underlying aquifers continue to be discussed. Similarly,...

ECOSYSTEM ASPECTS

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p. 43

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Chapter 3: Flora

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pp. 45-65

When most ecologists consider “flora” they usually think of vascular plants; sometimes, as an afterthought, algae come to mind. Fewer yet consider fungi, mosses, bacteria, and viruses even though their diversity may surpass that of the higher taxa (Wilson 1999). There are few studies investigating these latter groups in Great Plains playas and only one...

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Chapter 4: Fauna

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pp. 66-107

As with the flora in playas, the animal life existing in these wetlands depends not only on the current playa hydroperiod but also on its historic hydroperiod. Similar to seeds, many invertebrates can remain dormant in playa sediments for decades reflecting past colonization events and hydric conditions (Hairston et al. 1995). Although seeds and invertebrates are generally considered in this light, many amphibians...

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Chapter 5: Structure, Function, and Diversity

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pp. 108-138

The entire structure of a playa and its many associated functions can change within a few days. If a playa has been dry for more than a year, often only a thin layer of grass and spindly forbs remain in the basin. Then in early May thunderstorms can occur over the same playa and, more important, over its surrounding watershed, resulting in the basin being covered...

CONSERVATION ASPECTS

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p. 139

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Chapter 6: Historical, Cultural, and Current Societal Value of Playas

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pp. 141-159

The value of wetlands to Paleo-Indian cultures, more recent Native Americans, historic European Americans, and today’s society is only now being synthesized. Perhaps because of mid-twentieth-century views of most Great Plains wetlands as impediments to agriculture and as sources of disease, their value and consistent importance to human cultures throughout time has not been fully appreciated (Prince 1997). Indeed,...

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Chapter 7: Threats to Proper Function of Playas

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pp. 160-176

The number and magnitude of threats to wetlands on a global scale is astounding (Mitsch and Gosselink 2000). This assault is no less on playas although the relative importance of certain threats, such as drainage, may be more important in other areas than in the High Plains. The presentation here is not limited to wetland loss, as is done in many government...

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Chapter 8: Conservation Past, Present, and Future

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pp. 177-201

With all of the problems facing wetlands in the Great Plains, there is obviously plenty to do. Initially, the discussion here will focus on planning programs targeted at playas, and those with a regional versus a global scope. Planning programs are agency directives, initiatives, or legislation that can be used to conserve playa wetlands and their associated...

Appendix

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pp. 202-217

References

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pp. 219-245

Index

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pp. 247-257