Comparative inventories in 1969 and 1970 and in 2008 of vegetation from 30 forest stands downstream of Garrison Dam on the Missouri River in central North Dakota showed (a) a sharp decline in Cottonwood regeneration; (b) a strong compositional shift toward dominance by green ash; and (c) large increases in invasive understory species, such as smooth brome, reed canary grass, and Canada thistle. These changes, and others discovered during remeasurement, have been caused by a complex of factors, some related to damming (altered hydrologic and sediment regimes, delta formation, and associated wet-dry cycles) and some not (diseases and expansion of invasive plants). Dominance of green ash, however, may be short lived, given the likelihood that the emerald ash borer will arrive in the Dakotas in 5-10 years, with potentially devastating effects. The prospects for recovery of this valuable ecosystem, rich in ecosystem goods and services and in American history, are daunting.
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Forty years of vegetation change on the Missouri River floodplain