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Establishing vegetation in reservoir mudflats


August 2016 - July 2019


With a median age of 67 years, reservoirs in the USA are showing compelling signs of fish habitat degradation. Habitat losses are often most prominent in littoral zones and are driven by regular and sometimes extreme water level drawdowns mandated by the operational goals of the reservoir. These fluctuations generally limit successful establishment of aquatic and terrestrial plants. Consequently, expansive mudflats form along the regulated zones (elevations between high and low water levels) of reservoirs that are aesthetically displeasing, promote erosion, increase water turbidity when flooded, and cause various ecological problems in aquatic ecosystems.
To rejuvenate these fish habitats we are researching the establishment of agricultural plantings on mudflats. A team from Mississippi State University, Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Reservoir Fisheries Habitat Partnership formulated a project to test the applicability of seeding various plants in the mudflats of Enid Lake, a 65-year old flood-control reservoir in northwest Mississippi. Our study design involves planting in fall, when the water level is drawn down, and allow plants to grow throughout the winter until the mudflats are re-inundated in the spring.
Several agricultural species commonly used for wildlife food plots were selected for planting based on their ability to grow during winter and under diverse soil quality conditions. Two grass species, ryegrass and triticale, performed well in mudflats despite poor soils with acidic pH that inhibit growth of plants. The two promising species exhibited unique growth patterns: ryegrass excelled in ground cover and biomass, and triticale in maximum height. These complementing features contribute to diversity of habitat structure that may provide various benefits to wildlife before inundation and aquatic macroinvertebrate and fish assemblages after inundation.


Current Staff

Federal Staff: 101

Masters Students: 232

Phd Students: 160

Post Docs: 58

University Staff: 268

5 Year Summary

Students graduated: 677

Scientific Publications: 1887

Presentations: 4313



Funding Agencies



Cooperative Research Units Program Headquarters Cooperators

  1. U.S. Geological Survey