The White Cliffs Floodplain IBA is located primarily within the Missouri River floodplain, along with some of the surrounding upland bluffs. Historically, much of this floodplain was covered in bottomland forest, with some marshland and shrub swamps in abandoned river channels (Nigh and Schroeder 2002), with hardwood forest in the upland areas. Most of the floodplain was converted to cropland. However, much of this cropland was destroyed and abandoned by the Great Flood of 1993 and purchased by federal and state agencies for conservation land. In addition to the pre-flood residual habitat, riverfront forests, marshes, shrub swamps, scour pools, and natural sandbars and mudflats are returning to the floodplain. The IBA also contains Schnabel Woods Conservation Area (CA), a patch of rare, old-growth mesic loess forest atop the bluffs overlooking Eagle Bluffs CA (Nelson 2005).
Thirty-four percent of the IBA is publicly-owned conservation land. Of these, the US Fish and Wildlife (USFWS) manages the following units of the Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge: Diana Bend (1,188 acres, 481 ha), Jameson Island (1,871 acres, 757 ha), Lisbon Bottoms (2,013 acres, 815 ha), and Overton Bottoms (1,655 acres, 670 ha; also managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers [USACE]). The remaining public lands in this IBA are managed by the Missouri Department of Conservation(MDC), and include a small portion of Davisdale Conservation Area (CA) (44 acres, 18 ha), Diana Bend CA (1,060 acres, 429 ha), Eagle Bluffs CA (4,268 acres, 1,728 ha), Franklin Island CA (1,662 acres, 673 ha), Marion Bottoms CA (2,939 acres, 1,190 ha), Overton Bottoms (3,725 acres, 1,508 ha), Plowboy Bend CA (2,675 acres, 1,083 ha), and Schnabel Woods CA (79 acres, 32 ha).
The Manitou Floodplain IBA provides abundant wetland habitats for migratory waders, waterfowl, and shorebirds. Approximately 10,000 mixed waterfowl were detected during MDC?s 2005 Midwinter Waterfowl survey, and flocks of thousands of shorebirds can also regularly be seen. Bald Eagles nest there, and there has also been evidence for breeding Common Moorhen. Virginia Rail and Marsh Wren have also been observed in the IBA during their respective breeding seasons. Bottomland forest provides habitat for many forest birds, including Prothonotary Warbler, Pileated Woodpecker, and Wood Thrush, as well as habitat for large numbers of migrating songbirds.
The Manitou Floodplain IBA is included within MDC?s Manitou Bluffs Conservation Opportunity Area. Much of the floodplain is being allowed by state and federal agencies to return to ?natural? floodplain habitats, despite the continued channelization of the Missouri river. In addition to allowing natural habitat reclamations, water levels are maintained artificially in wetland pools. Suggestions for management and public outreach for the IBA include greater manipulation of shallow water habitats for shorebirds, control of purple loosestrife, and promoting birding trips. A partnership with the Friends of Big Muddy would facilitate future Audubon Missouri IBA plan implementation.
The White Cliffs Floodplain is a focal IBA for initial project implementation by Audubon Missouri (AM). A Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) station will begin in the spring of 2006. Volunteers from the Columbia Audubon Society and local citizens will assist with the banding efforts. We will also conduct feather pulling on individuals of certain species, in collaboration with researchers at the Center for Tropical Research-UCLA, Neotropical Bird Conservation Genetics Project. In conjunction with the MAPS station, AM is also developing a multi-faceted partnership to develop an international conservation connection between Missouri and Belize that results in direct on-the-ground conservation action in Belize. Many of Missouri?s breeding neotropical migrant bird species also over-winter in Belize, providing incentive to contribute to conservation on these species wintering grounds. A possible first step could be to establish a ?sister? Monitoring Over-wintering Survival (MOSI) station in Belize. Partners currently include AM, Columbia Audubon, Belize Audubon Society, BirdLife International, MDC, and the USFWS (and possibly the National Wild Turkey Foundation ? as the Ocellated Turkey occurs in Belize