Most of the mature bottomland hardwood forest once common in the Ohio River's floodplain no longer exists. The refuge is working to restore this important wildlife habitat by allowing nature to regrow the forest and by planting open areas with native trees. One of the biggest obstacles to this effort is the invasion of the islands by non-native plants such as Japanese knotweed, mile-a-minute, and multi-flora rose. Intensive control efforts, including the use of herbicides, are part of the refuge's land management strategy. Learn more about invasive species.
In addition to protecting islands, the refuge is looking at the potential for protecting mainland wetlands and embayments along the Ohio River. These critical habitats provide shallow-water feeding areas for wading birds, nursery habitat for many species of fish, shelter for wintering waterfowl, and other benefits.
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Forty six species of native freshwater mussels live within the refuge waters on the Ohio River. This includes five federally endangered mussel species: fanshell, pink mucket, sheepnose, northern riffleshell, and clubshell. Mussels are important to the health of a river ecosystem. They are filter feeders, which helps reduce silt, sediment, and pollutants in the water.