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Our current understanding of the Upper Mississippi River System floodplain forest

Authors
  • Romano, Susan P.1
  • 1 Western Illinois University-Quad Cities, Institute for Environmental Studies, Departments of Biological Sciences and Geography, Moline, IL, 61265, USA , Moline (United States)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Hydrobiologia
Publisher
Springer-Verlag
Publication Date
Jan 06, 2010
Volume
640
Issue
1
Pages
115–124
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1007/s10750-009-0063-8
Source
Springer Nature
Keywords
License
Yellow

Abstract

The silver maple-American elm floodplain forest spans throughout the floodplains of the Upper Mississippi River System (UMRS). These forests of the UMRS today are less diverse than those of pre-European expansion (ca. early 1800s). Scientists and land managers are concerned about loss of species diversity including mast species such as pin oak (Quercus palustris Muenchh.), swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor Willd.), bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa Michx. Q), pecan (Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch), and other hickories. The Great Midwest Flood of 1993 maintained species diversity in the lower, unimpounded region of the Upper Mississippi River, providing an opportunity for eastern cottonwood and black willow to regenerate in this portion of the Mississippi River. However, throughout the entire region, floodplain forests of the Upper Mississippi River have become less diverse, and have become dominated by the flood-tolerant and shade-tolerant silver maple (Acer saccharinum L.). The imminent loss of green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica Marsh.) to the Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis Fairmaire) follows an already changing forest structure due to a disease-related shift of American elm (Ulmus americana L.) from the overstory to the midstory strata. Another invasive, reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinaceae L.), interferes with evolved mechanisms for establishment as it outcompetes trees of the early successional floodplain forest. Further research is needed to create and maintain diverse floodplain forest communities that have been lost under current conditions. Returning flood-prone agricultural lands within the floodplain to the floodplain forest will improve the health and connectivity of the river system, increase the diversity of habitats, and provide flood relief for communities of the Upper Mississippi River.

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