Large floodplain forests represent a threatened and endangered type of ecosystem in the United States. Estimates of cumulative losses of floodplain forest range from 57% to 95% at different locations within the continental United Stales. Floodplain forests of the Upper Mississippi River (UMR) have significantly declined in extent due to agriculture, lock and dam construction, and urban development since European settlement. We collected data on shrubs, herbs, and trees from 56 floodplain forest plots in 1992 and compared our results with a previous analysis of historical tree data from the same area recorded by the General Land Office Survey in the 1840s. Acer saccharinum strongly dominates among mature trees and its relative dominance has increased over time. Salix spp. And Betula nigra have declined in relative dominance. Tree sizes are similar to those of presettlement forests, but present forests have fewer trees. The lack of early successional tree species and a trend toward an increasing monoculture of A. Saccharinum in the mature stages indicate problems with regeneration. Because floodplain forests represent a rare habitat type, losses and changes in habitat quality could pose serious problems for wildlife that depend upon these habitats, especially birds.
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Floodplain forest loss and changes in forest community composition and structure in the upper Mississippi River: a wildlife habitat at risk