APRIL 11, 2014 : Updated: April 11, 2014 10:33am
VERMILLION, S.D. (AP) — A biology researcher at the University of South Dakota says life will likely be changing for birds along the Missouri River over the next 100 years.
Chris Merkord, a post-doctoral research associate, presented his findings Thursday. They showed that the changing nature of the cottonwood forests along the river in South Dakota will impact what type of birds can live there in the future.
The cottonwood forests along the river are not growing back and Merkord says that's partially because of the lack of sandbars that foster forest growth, The Daily Republic reported (http://bit.ly/R9nt1Q ). Cottonwoods along the river grow best in bare, moist sediment areas but those opportunities are limited.
"We don't have the sediment coming through the (Fort Randall) dam," Merkord said. "We have the erosion going on and we don't have any sediment coming in from upstream to replace it, so the river is sort of eating itself into its current banks."
Merkord studied a 39-mile stretch of the river between the Fort Randall Dam and Running Water, a small town southwest of Springfield.
Species like ovenbird and hairy woodpeckers could see their populations decrease up to 40 percent over the next 100 years, and the northern flicker and Baltimore oriole species also could see reduced populations.
Other bird populations are expected to grow, Merkord said. Birds like the common yellowthroat, indigo bunting, blue jay and song sparrow will benefit from the next generation of trees, like ash, elm and box elder species.