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Monday, February 6 • 3:40pm - 4:00pm
Symposia Session - S3: Ecology of the Missouri National Recreational River. Trajectories of Decline in Cottonwood Forests Along the Missouri River: Implications for Songbirds

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AUTHORS: Mark D. Dixon, University of South Dakota; Christopher L. Merkord, South Dakota State University; David L. Swanson, University of South Dakota; W. Carter Johnson, South Dakota State University; Michael L. Scott, Utah State University

ABSTRACT: Riparian forests dominated by cottonwood (Populus deltoides) support high wildlife diversity, particularly of breeding songbirds, and provide organic matter inputs and key structural components to the adjacent aquatic ecosystem.  As riparian pioneer species, cottonwood establishment and persistence is closely linked with fluvial geomorphic processes along dynamic rivers.  On the Missouri River, a series of dams and reservoirs constructed in the mid-20th century, along with earlier human modifications, land use change, and more recent increases in bank stabilization, have impacted riparian forest establishment, composition, structure, and long-term trajectories.  These changes have important implications for breeding songbird populations within the Missouri National Recreational River.  Using historical land cover change data and a simple Markov model, we projected future declines in the area of cottonwood forest and a shift towards later successional forests where cottonwood is absent or is only a minor component.  We projected that significant shifts in breeding bird species abundances would accompany these shifts in landscape composition, with declines in several early successional bird species, some cavity nesters, and some species that preferentially utilize older cottonwood forests.  Despite causing significant landscape change, sandbar formation, and some new cottonwood recruitment, the flood of 2011 is unlikely to have strongly ameliorated these trends.  Possible solutions are complicated by conflicting management interests, long-term changes to channel structure, and the inherent limitations imposed by water management priorities on this large, “working” river.

Monday February 6, 2017 3:40pm - 4:00pm
Grand Ballroom A

Attendees (5)