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UMRR Habitat Needs Assessment

The landscape, land use, and hydrology of the Upper Mississippi River and its basin have and continue to change. Much of the grassland, wetland, and forest in the basin and in the floodplain have been converted to agricultural use. Impoundment, channelization, and levee construction have altered the hydrologic regime and sedimentation patterns, resulting in loss of backwaters, islands, and secondary channels. Habitat conditions are expected to continue to decline, changing from more desirable to less desirable conditions as a result of the man-made changes. The need for improved habitat quality and increased habitat diversity in the floodplain is broadly recognized by resource managers and scientists. The Upper Mississippi River Restoration (UMRR) Program is the primary habitat restoration program on the Upper Mississippi River System (UMRS), one of the world’s largest and most diverse river systems. To address this restoration need, the UMRR Program developed 12 indicators that describe aspects of ecosystem structure and function. These indicators were then evaluated across the river system and compared to desired conditions to determine the habitat needs. These two reports describe these recent significant efforts.

Indicators of Ecosystem Structure and Function

This report describes the development of indicators of ecosystem structure and function for use in a Habitat Needs Assessment (HNA) for the Upper Mississippi River System (UMRS). Indicators were developed that quantify ecosystem characteristics of the UMRS and the characteristics of a resilient river system. These indicators focus on important aspects of river floodplain hydrogeomorphology, one of the major drivers of change in a river system. The information contained within this report provides a broader scale context for management decisions made at finer scales and is designed for use in the formal UMRS system-wide Habitat Needs Assessment-II.

Habitat Needs Assessment-II

This report combines data and surveys to evaluate how the existing conditions of the Upper Mississippi River compare to desired conditions identified by the UMRR partnership. The region’s resource managers (local experts) evaluated the twelve indicators from the Indicators Report, identified where existing conditions differ from desired conditions, and provided rankings on which indicators were most important to target for future restoration activities. Many indicators in the Upper, Middle, and Lower Impounded clusters were considered to be near desired conditions, though several indicators within the Open River cluster and Illinois River clusters differ greatly from desired conditions. The HNA-II and the Indicators Report will be utilized to help inform habitat restoration activities into the future as the UMRR Program seeks to achieve the vision and goals of this multi-agency partnership.