California's Tulare Lake Basin (TLB) is one of the most important waterbird areas in North America even though most wetlands there have been converted to cropland. To guide management programs promoting waterbird beneficial agriculture, which includes flooding fields between growing periods, we measured emergence rates of insects, an important waterbird food, in three crop types (tomato, wheat, alfalfa) in the TLB relative to water depth and days flooded during August–October, 2003 and 2004. We used corrected Akaike's Information Criterion values to compare a set of models that accounted for our repeated measured data. The best model included crop type and crop type interacting with days flooded and depth flooded. Emergence rates (mg m−2 day−1) were greater in tomato than wheat or alfalfa fields, increased with days flooded in alfalfa and tomato but not wheat fields, and increased with water depth in alfalfa and wheat but not tomato fields. To investigate the relationship between the range of diel water temperatures and insect emergence rates, we reared Chironomus dilutus larvae in environmental chambers under high (15–32°C) and low fluctuation (20–26°C) temperature regimes that were associated with shallow and deep (respectively) sampling sites in our fields. Larval survival (4×) and biomass (2×) were greater in the low thermal fluctuation treatment suggesting that deeply flooded areas would support greater insect production.
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Vol. 29 • No. 3