Descriptive studies are an important first step in developing assessment models for regional wetland subclasses. Objectives of this study were to gather benchmark information on the composition and structure of vegetation from minimally impacted riparian forested wetland sites in Michigan, USA, and to determine if species composition of the breeding bird community and relative densities of individual species varied among riparian and adjacent upland forest zones. Plant species richness, dominance, and structure differed greatly between floodplain wetlands and uplands and were similar among zones within floodplain forests. Of 54 breeding bird species recorded through point count surveys (1998–99), 39 were observed in both floodplain and upland forests, while 11 were found only in floodplains and 4 solely in the uplands. Detectable patterns of avian density across riparian and upland forest zones were evident for 31 breeding species. Most species preferred areas closest to the river over other zones, although a few species were more prevalent within interior floodplains or uplands as compared to riverside forests. Forested riparian wetlands in this region act as essential breeding habitats for many avian species not often found in upland areas and are especially important for obligate riparian species and rare or declining breeding birds observed within our sites. These results are consistent with many studies across North America, where riparian forests have been found to support disproportionately large numbers of breeding bird species as compared to more xeric forests and other upland habitats.
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Vol. 22 • No. 4