By Harold L. Schramm, Jr.
The Mississippi River is a multijurisdictional and multiuse resource that has been variously altered and is foremost managed for navigation and flood control throughout much of its 3,734-km passage from its origin at Lake Itasca, Minnesota, to its outlet at the Gulf of Mexico. Despite alterations summarized herein, the native fish fauna remains largely intact and only five nonnative species have colonized segments of the river. Diverse habitats still remain, but loss of habitat, declining habitat suitability, and reduced floodplain functionality warrant concern. Fisheries monitoring and assessment, ecological research, and habitat rehabilitation vary from adequate in the upper reaches of the river to minimal in the lower reaches of the river, and these efforts parallel the recreational use, local values, and visibility of the river. A conceptual model is proposed to depict the value of the social, economic, and many ecosystem services the Mississippi River ecosystem offers that can be used to achieve the social and economic support needed to conserve and restore this valuable fishery resource.
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