Ducks & Resiliency

Ecologists increasingly mention “resiliency” and “regime change” when discussing wildlife populations and their habitats. What do these ideas signify and why are they becoming increasingly important to ducks and duck hunters?

The three of us who founded Madduck have a combined experience with duck hunting that exceeds 150 years in the field. This experience cuts across a very wide swath of time and geography. Our collective sense is that there is something fundamentally changing in the duck world that causes us to have great concern over diminishing waterfowl populations and the future of duck hunting.

For example, between 1960 and 2008 the human population more than doubled and economic growth increased in excess of seven-fold. These two phenomena resulted in activities that altered the landscape by fragmenting it and changing the activities conducted on it. The historical breeding, nesting and brood-rearing habitats of various waterfowl species have been significantly disturbed and in many cases altered irreversibly. The net result is a decrease in the abundance and quality of the natural resources required by waterfowl to sustain their historic population levels. As the natural resource base needed to allow our waterfowl to annually produce harvestable surpluses has become more fragile, the resilience of each duck species to flourish has been compromised.

I use the word “resilience” deliberately. It is defined as the “capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganize while undergoing change so as to still retain essentially the same function, structure, identity and feedbacks.”  This concept is finding increasing acceptance among ecologists. (For those who want to further explore the concept in all its manifestations, and I encourage you to do so, consult the references and sources at the end of this article.)

ducks2Resiliency is particularly applicable to our waterfowl. Disturbances to waterfowl populations include habitat degradation (quality and quantity), weather cycles/changes, inherent population dynamics, and sport harvest. Most of these variables are beyond our control. Only the harvest variable gives us the ability and power to exert some control.

Unfortunately, the management of our waterfowl harvest has been built upon a model that uses average conditions and assumes that changes will be incremental and linear. What concerns this writer is that this is the same kind of modeling used for some of the world’s famous fisheries that have collapsed one after another. The fisheries harvest models had sustainability as their long term goal (sound familiar?). And yet for all the good intentions and so-called expert opinions, many fish populations have plummeted to historic lows such as the Pacific Coast salmon where commercial fishing has been suspended in an emergency effort to save the fish. ¹

At the intersection of ecology, economics and sociology, scientists today are finding natural systems considerably more complex, intricate and vulnerable than our assumptions, models and experts allow for. It is pure folly to assume there is, or can be, an “optimal sustainable state.” Yet, our waterfowl managers pursue this fabricated goal year in and year out. They try to optimize the elements of complex systems, even though the push for optimization (i.e. maximum sustainable harvest) greatly diminishes the resilience of our flocks by making them increasingly vulnerable to shocks and disturbances.

Could it be that the current system of waterfowl management is pushing us toward a “population threshold” for individual species that will cause a population to behave in a whole new way? Examples abound of thresholds being reached where species have undergone a fundamental behavioral change in response to a reduced population or altered environment. (Ecologists often describe this as “regime change.”). This new behavior is outside our realm of experience and knowledge. Black ducks, canvasbacks, pintails and scaup have undergone significant declines and it is doubtful that they will ever return to the levels that we at Madduck and many of our readers experienced when we first ventured out into the duck marshes. Could it be that our mallards and other species of ducks are destined to share the same fate?

This raises a key issue. Should we not err on the side of caution when setting harvest regulations so we don’t push more species across a threshold to a new regime? Should we not embrace a strategy of absolutely protecting the resilience of each and every species of duck so that they can absorb the increasing number of shocks and disturbances in the complex system that sustains them?

A specific case illustrates this concern. In California we have a well documented and discreet subpopulation of mallards that live their entire life in California and southern Oregon. This population provides a significant part of each season’s “bag” for California hunters. But two consecutive years of drought resulting in very poor reproductive success, coupled with excessively long seasons and bag limits, and an ever changing natural resource base, have diminished the ability of this particular population to sustain itself at historic levels. This is happening in spite of tremendous efforts over the last decade to restore, enhance and expand habitat dedicated to the ducks. An increasing number of field biologists and waterfowl scientists are sounding the alarm bell that this population may have been reduced this year below a threshold where a return to historic abundance may not be possible. A regime shift may be underway and the resilience of California mallards to respond could have been comprised, much like that of California salmon. Ecologists view it as probable that tiny incremental changes can trigger a large shift in some systems if a critical threshold is breached. The vexing problem is that nobody knows exactly where the critical population threshold level is. Suffice to say that in our lifetimes the resiliency of most – if not all — waterfowl populations have been diminished, with no guarantee of a rebound to historic numbers.

The resiliency message is simple. We need to be conservative and protective in managing our waterfowl so that we can pass on to the next generation the wonderful  heritage that we have enjoyed. Since we are only interim stewards of these waterfowl, we must not allow hunter opportunity and short-term pleasure to come at the expense of a long-term loss of resiliency. We have already done a miserable job of sustaining great numbers of black ducks, pintails, canvasbacks and scaup. Let’s not add other species to this list.

I leave you with a closing thought by Dr. Steven Carpenter of the University of Wisconsin: “Assuming that multiple regimes (for any population) are absent when they are actually present could lead to dangerous assumptions, such as the idea … that a harvested population cannot collapse.” ²


Peter D. Stent


¹Walker, Brian, Holling, C.S., Carpenter, Steven R., and Kinzig, Ann. 2004. Resilience, Adaptability and Transformability in Social-Ecological Systems. Ecology and Society 9(2): 5.

²Scheffer, Marten and Carpenter, Steven R. 2003. Catastrophic Regime Shifts in Ecosystems: Linking Theory to Observation. Trends in Ecology and Evolution Vol. 18 No. 12 December, 2003.

Resilience Thinking: Sustaining Ecosystems and People in a Changing World. Brian Walker and David Salt. Island Press, 2006.


Getting The Most From Your Auto Insurance

2016-Honda-CRV-WhiteMany consumers feel learning the fundamentals of auto policies is hard. In truth, research and understanding make it much less confusing.

Many people mistakenly believe that insurance rates go down automatically for young drivers once they reach 25.

Avoid letting your coverage lapse to help keep your policy rates lower. You can create gaps in your coverage when you are switching from one insurance carrier or policy to another one. Your insurance provider may increase your rates when they discover you have had gaps.

Carpooling and public transportation are great ways to lower your auto insurance. Insurance companies appreciate their customers being responsible clients.

The most beneficial tip when it comes to auto insurance is to maintain a spotless driving record. A car accident will raise your insurance premium. Know your driving limits, and stay away from any situations that you are not comfortable in.

You can save a lot of money if something happens.

Consider removing some of the coverage items from your auto insurance.For example, if you own an old vehicle which is not very valuable, you do not really need to pay extra for this item. You can save a significant amount of money by removing collision coverage.You should also think about dropping your comprehensive and liability coverages.

Insurance against drivers who don’t have insurance is also important, as well as non-accident damage to your car like fire or flood, like in a fire.

You might be able to save money on auto insurance by bundling it with your other insurance policies. Try to find these offers and get a policy for your house and your vehicle in one. Make sure you are getting a good deal and auto or insuring them separately before making the decision to bundle.

Take the time to go over the list of discounts completely, and analyze whether you are eligible to save a bit of money. You may be shocked at how you can lower your insurance bill.

Insurance companies are all alike. If the premium that you are quoted seems high, there are many other companies to shop around at.

Get quotes from different insurance agencies before you select the right one to get for your car. You will likely have to check with many companies before you find the best one.

Remove any drivers from your car insurance as soon as they stop driving your vehicle anymore. If other drives are on your plan, consider removing them in order to save some money on your premiums.

Many insurance companies give discounts to people who drive less. This makes cutting back on your driving a wonderful way to save money on car insurance.

Your credit score can affect how much you will pay for auto insurance premium. Auto insurance companies check the credit before pricing your policy.

All of these strategies apply to a lot of people. Try these suggestions when you are shopping for car insurance. Using this article as a guide, you can get the insurance coverage you need at a price you can afford.

Simple Guidelines To Follow To Get Auto Insurance

State legislation mandates that you obtain at minimum the minimum automobile insurance policies package, not only to safeguard by yourself when driving, but to safeguard other motorists on the road. This leads some men and women to make hasty decisions with their coverage. Discover out what you need to have to know about automobile insurance coverage by looking through these guidelines.

When shopping for a new vehicle, be sure to verify with your insurance policy company for any sudden charge changes. You may possibly be surprised at how low-cost or expensive some vehicles could be due to unforeseen requirements. Specific safety characteristics could bring the value of one particular car down, although particular other autos with security risks could provide the cost up.

Continue reading

Need Car Insurance policy? Look No Even more For Wonderful Tips!

A lot of insurance policies commercials condition that by switching to their company, you will save so considerably a year in terms of pounds or percent. But in carrying out so, you may possibly be sacrificing quality services. You don’t often have to find a new automobile insurance policies company just to cut charges. We have several suggestions to assist you conserve money without compromising services.

When retaining down the expense of automobile insurance, protect your no-statements report. If you have many a long time of automobile insurance policy with the exact same firm and you have not essential to file any statements, steer clear of submitting a tiny declare. The improve in your premiums will be much more pricey than basically masking the little declare hurt out of pocket.

Continue reading

Getting The Lowest Car Insurance Quotes Online

Hjuke-r-053_0ave you seen commercials claiming that you can save a lot of money on your car insurance? Are you looking for a way to lower your premiums without skimping on the quality of your coverage? If so, you need to know how to find good car insurance quotes online. By doing so, you may be able to significantly reduce your premiums.

Shopping online makes it a lot easier to save money on the cost of insuring an automobile. No longer do you have to waste a lot of time going from company to company, asking for quotes and filling out applications. Instead, you can just enter your information and get as many quotes as you want in just a few minutes. Continue reading