| RICE FIELDS AS TEMPORARY WETLANDS: A REVIEW |
SHARON PATRICIA LAWLER A1
A1 Department of Entomology, University of California, Davis, Davis, California 95616 USA
Rice fields are temporary wetlands that harbor many of the same species that breed in natural temporary ponds. Therefore the rice agroecosystem has the potential to help sustain the regional biodiversity of many invertebrates and vertebrates. Like natural areas of wetlands, rice cultivation provides a habitat mosaic of temporary and more permanent waters. Because of their low floral diversity and because their species composition will rarely overlap completely with that of natural ponds, rice fields are not substitutes for natural temporary ponds. However, they are important in sustaining populations of several species, including wading birds and frogs. Farming methods vary widely, and different practices can alter the suitability of rice fields as habitats. Farmers use water management, pesticides, and sometimes fish to control crop pests and mosquitoes, and other taxa may be affected as well. Farmers may irrigate rice intermittently to control pests, and intermittent habitat holds fewer species than areas that are flooded for longer periods. Broad-spectrum pesticides may harm invertebrates and other wildlife, and may even cause pest resurgences if they have greater effects on predator populations than on the pests. Fish often decrease the abundance of invertebrate predators, but fish farming in rice fields often discourages the use of harmful pesticides. Because farming practices can affect the conservation value of rice fields, ecologists are encouraged to work with farmers and study the role of rice fields in the population dynamics of temporary pond species, and how changing farming methods alter this role.
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