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The importance of floodplain forests in the conservation and management of neotropical migratory birds in the Midwest

Knutson, M. G., Hoover, J. P., and Klaas, E. E., 1996, The importance of floodplain forests in the conservation and management of neotropical migratory birds in the Midwest, Thompson, F. R. III, ed., Management of Midwestern Landscapes for the Conservation of Neotropical Migratory Birds: Detroit, Michigan, p. 1-21.


Bottomland forests of the Central Forest Region of the Upper Midwest are found primarily on the floodplains of large rivers and include at least six types of forest communities. Birds breeding in bottomland forests are affected by extensive variation in latitude, climate, hydrology, forest succession, and change caused by anthropogenic disturbances. The floodplain forest bird community differs in species composition and in relative abundance from adjacent upland habitats. High abundances of some species are found in the floodplain and some species, such as the prothonotary warbler, brown creeper, yellow-billed cuckoo, yellow-bellied sapsucker, and great crested flycatcher, show a clear preference for floodplain forests. Studies of nesting success indicate that, for some species, nest success may be higher in the floodplain than in the uplands. Floodplain birds face threats due to large-scale loss of floodplain forest habitat. Conservation efforts should focus on restoring degraded floodplains by maintaining high tree species diversity and wide corridors. To accomplish this, the underlying hydrodynamics which support a diverse floodplain forest habitat may need to be restored. Large, contiguous tracts of floodplain and upland forests should be maintained where they exist and restored in other locations. This will provide some high quality habitat for area-sensitive neotropical migratory birds (NTMBs) in agricultural landscapes where small, scattered forest fragments are the rule. Future research efforts should examine the importance of floodplain forests in maintaining populations of neotropical migrants, especially birds experiencing population declines in adjacent uplands.

Keywords: floodplain, bottomland, riparian, midwest, bird, neotropical migrant, review

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