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Upper Mississippi, Illinois rivers survey shows higher waters, forest loss but continued support for plants, wildlife

The report summarizes more than 25 years of data on the Upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers.

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. — After a quarter-century of research, the Rock Island District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Geological Society released a report on the current state of the Upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers system.

Through the Water Resources Development Act of 1986, Congress implemented long-term research efforts for the Upper Mississippi River System. The report describes what was learned from that monitoring, according to a news release from the Corps of Engineers. Specifically, it reveals changes in aquatic vegetation, fish and water quality.

“Understanding what is going on in and around the river is needed to inform decisions and guide investments," Executive Director of the Upper Mississippi River Basin Association Kirsten Wallace said in the release. "The Upper Mississippi River flows across five states and tribal lands, multiple agency jurisdictions, the footprint of scores of nonprofit organizations and is central to navigation, agriculture and many essential economic sectors."

Here are some of the key findings from the report, according to the release:

  • There's more water in the river more of the time, with high flows lasting longer and happening more often throughout the system.
  • Floodplain forest loss has occurred across most of the system. Floodplain forests are important because they help support outdoor recreation and access to clean water.
  • Water in the main channel has become clearer, bringing more plants and improving life for fish and other wildlife.
  • Concentrations of nutrients exceed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency benchmarks, but phosphorus concentrations have declined.
  • Invasive carps have affected the river ecosystem, and forage fish, which are food for larger fish and animals, have substantially declined. However, the ecosystem continues to support diverse fish.

Find the full digital report here.

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