Symposium Focuses on Importance of Platte River Ecosystem

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Whooping cranes, sandhill cranes, and other migratory birds. Scientists say they're not just important for the Platte River ecosystem, but also for farms around the river.

"Everything in wildlife or just in the natural world is connected so by the presence of the birds, they can affect things that feed on them, also the things they feed on. So they may affect the amount of waste grains or invertebrates left in the ground," said Greg Wright, wildlife biologist at the Crane Trust.

It's all part of the discussion at the 1st Annual Research Symposium at the Crane Trust on Friday.

"These species use the Platte River during their migrations and they're very sensitive to open areas of river and availability of food," explained Director of Science Mary Harner.

Experts say changes in the weather and the environment can cause the birds to either stay in the Platte River longer or forgo it altogether.

"Alterations to the terresterial habitats has an effect on the birds because if those sites are reduced, there's not as much feeding or areas for the birds to seek refuge and get their resources," said Harner.

And scientists say it's important the birds come, because they are an integral part of the Platte River ecosystem. The strength of that ecosystem also has effects on the economy of towns along the river.

"The Nature and Visitor Center, during crane migration, can have as many as 30,000 visitors in that short window, as well as other visitors throughout the year," said Wright.