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Photo: A male Indigo Bunting. Link to photo information
An Indigo Bunting (male) is just one of the songbirds common in agroforestry areas. Click the image for more information about it.

Agroforestry and Wildlife Management Go Together in Floodplains

By Jim Core
December 8, 2004

A research program to reforest Missouri floodplains once dominated by oaks and other native trees is developing agroforestry practices that minimize the impact of flooding while also generating income and improving wildlife habitat.

The Agricultural Research Service and the University of Missouri (UM) Center for Agroforestry are working together on the project, part of the university's Agroforestry Family Farm and Floodplain Program. Agroforestry involves producing animal forage, crops and lumber on the same land at the same time.

David K. Brauer, research leader at the ARS Dale Bumpers Small Farm Research Center in Booneville, Ark., and David M. Burner, an agronomist at the Booneville center, provide support and serve as advisors to the program, which is partially funded by ARS.

UM's Center for Agroforestry brings together different departments in its College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, as well as various government agencies, to demonstrate agroforestry's ability to generate income, improve the environment, lessen the impact of periodic flooding and create and improve wildlife habitat.

For instance, Mickey Heitmeyer and Leigh Fredrickson, wetland biologists with UM's Fisheries and Wildlife Department, are studying the role of different types, sizes and locations of agroforestry and native bottomland forest patches in maintaining wildlife communities in an area along the Mississippi River in southeastern Missouri.

If conservationists want to protect the yellow warbler songbird, for example, Heitmeyer and Frederickson found it's best for farmers to provide them habitat in abandoned channels on the river side of mainstream levees along the Mississippi River. The researchers used the plots to determine how songbirds select breeding territories and react to different agroforestry systems. They found certain songbirds were common in agroforestry areas, and they seemed to have a preference for young forests.

If, however, bats are to be protected, the researchers found that conservationists should focus on those areas inside levees where trees that provide greater forest cover are grown.

Read more about the research in the December 2004 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

ARS is the U. S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.