Playa Modifications Assessment

Map of Playas in relation to the Ogallala Aquifer

Map of Playas in relation to the Ogallala Aquifer

The Playa Modifications Assessment is a citizen science project that uses publicly available data to collect vital information on the ecological condition of playas throughout the western Great Plains. Playas provide important wildlife habitat and are a main source of recharge to the Ogallala Aquifer. Playas have been modified from their natural condition by a variety of factors, and their conservation depends on a better understanding of these modifications.

The playa region stretches across six states and lies at the heart of the Central Flyway, an important migration corridor that supports millions of birds every year. This region is also an important agricultural region providing much of the wheat, corn, and livestock produced in the U.S.

Although the modifications described in the following pages may reduce the ability of playas to support wildlife, it is important to recognize that these modifications are land-use decisions made by farmers and ranchers to support their livelihoods. Understanding both sides of this issue is critical because playa conservation does not happen in spite of landowners; it happens because of landowners. Over 80% of playas are located on private lands, thus playa conservation requires common sense solutions that help both people and wildlife make a living on the land.

Effective conservation of playas depends on a comprehensive awareness of their condition. That’s where we need your help. By participating in this project, you are providing important information that will improve our understanding of playa systems and contribute to more effective conservation of these important natural resources.

Following a short training, you’ll start identifying playa modifications from satellite imagery. To protect landowner privacy, it is impossible for viewers to identify where the playa is located. Ultimately, this information will be used to design better conservation programs that benefit both wildlife and people.