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Landscape ecology of the Upper Mississippi River System: Lessons learned, challenges and opportunities

March 22, 2016

The Upper Mississippi River System (UMRS) is a mosaic of river channels, backwater lakes, floodplain forests, and emergent marshes. This complex mosaic supports diverse aquatic and terrestrial plant communities, over 150 fish species; 40 freshwater mussel species; 50 amphibian and reptile species; and over 360 bird species, many of which use the UMRS as a critical migratory route. The river and floodplain are also hotspots for biogeochemical activity as the river-floodplain collects and processes nutrients derived from the UMR basin. These features qualify the UMRS as a Ramsar wetland of international significance.

Two centuries of land-use change, including construction for navigation and conversion of large areas to agriculture, has altered the broad-scale structure of the river and changed local environmental conditions in many areas. Such changes have affected rates of nutrient processing and transport, as well as the abundance of various fish, mussel, plant, and bird species. However, the magnitude and spatial scale of these effects are not well quantified, especially in regards to the best methods and locations for restoring various aspects of the river ecosystem.

The U.S. Congress declared the navigable portions of the Upper Mississippi River System (UMRS) a “nationally significant ecosystem and nationally significant commercial navigation system” in the Water Resources Development Act of 1986 (Public Law 99-662) and launched the Upper Mississippi River Restoration (UMRR) Program, the first comprehensive program for ecosystem restoration, monitoring, and research on a large river system. This fact sheet focuses on landscape ecological studies conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey to support decision making by the UMRR with respect to ecosystem restoration.

Publication Year 2016
Title Landscape ecology of the Upper Mississippi River System: Lessons learned, challenges and opportunities
DOI 10.3133/fs20163007
Authors Nathan R. De Jager
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Fact Sheet
Series Number 2016-3007
Index ID fs20163007
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center