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Ecology and Management of Islands, Peninsulas and Structures for Nesting Waterfowl

Waterfowl Nesting Islands in a Mississippi Backwater: An Experiment in Progress

Kathleen Cheap
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge
51 E. 4th St., Room 100
Winona, Minnesota 55987


In 1987 as part of a major rehabilitation project, two islands were created in a 4,000 acre backwater in Pool 5 of the Mississippi River. These islands provided the opportunity to study the vegetative colonization of large river islands and their subsequent use by waterfowl for nesting. Dredge spoil from routine navigational channel maintenance was used to create the 10- and 15- acre islands. The above-water surfaces of the islands were topped with a layer of fine sediment material which was dredged from the surrounding area. In 1988, this organic layer was mixed with the dredge spoil to create a soil base for plants. On one of the islands native grasses were seeded to provide nesting cover and stabilize the surface during floods. The shoreline of this island was also planted with emergent aquatic vegetation to control erosion and provide additional habitat. The other island was left to natural vegetative colonization. Monitoring of the vegetation will begin on both islands starting in fall 1988 and waterfowl nest searches will be conducted yearly starting in 1989. Information gained by comparing the vegetative growth and waterfowl nesting success on these two islands will assist resource managers in determining the cost effectiveness of dredge spoil island construction for wildlife habitat.
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