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Bottomland ((HOT))

The bottomland hardwood forest is a type of deciduous and evergreen hardwood forest found in broad lowland floodplains along large rivers and lakes in the United States[1] and elsewhere.[2] They are occasionally flooded, which builds up the alluvial soils required for the gum, oak and bald cypress trees that typically grow in this type of biome.[3] The trees often develop unique characteristics to allow submergence, including cypress knees and fluted trunks, but can not survive continuous flooding.[4]


Two hundred years ago, magnificent bottomland forests covered almost thirty million acres across the Southeastern United States. Today, only about forty percent of that area still supports these productive and unique ecosystems. Is is estimated that losses of these swamps reached rates as high as 431,000 acres per year from 1965 to 1975, largely due to conversion to croplands, particularly for soybeans. In some regions of the lower Mississippi floodplain, only a very small percentage of original bottomland hardwood forests remain.

The common feature among all of them is the presence of water above or near the ground surface for extended periods. The tree species frequently found in bottomland swamps are adapted to grow in wet soils that have low oxygen levels.

Regenerating and managing a bottomland swamp forest involves pre-planning, careful implementation of low-impact harvesting methods, and follow-up monitoring. Historically, many swamps were left alone after logging to re-grow from stump sprouts (foresters call it "coppice"). This method still can be successful if the upstream and downstream hydrology for the site remains un-changed before, during and after the harvest for some time. Recent observations have shown that taking supplemental actions to stimulate regeneration may be needed, and a woodland owner should not rely just on coppice growth when the site's hydrology has been altered. Some examples of these actions include retaining scattered clumps of permanent seed-source trees, or planting seedlings (including live-staking or stick-planting) after a harvest.

Over the past few years, the N.C. Forest Service has partnered with the USDA-Forest Service, NCSU Extension Forestry Department, and other cooperators to look into bottomland swamp forest regeneration, growth, harvesting, and overall management. So far, this partnership has resulted in the following:

Experience the richness and diversity of the Upper Little Tennessee at the Tessentee Bottomland Preserve. This more than 70-acre tract of bottomland and river bluff land lies at the junction of Tessentee Creek and the Little Tennessee River.

Bottomland hardwood forests support a great variety of tree and shrub species. Typical tree species growing in these forests range from cottonwoods and sweetgums to cherrybark oaks, water oaks and hickories. Leaf litter keeps the soil nutrient-rich and moist. The forests provide excellent habitat for many species of birds such as blue herons, wood storks, red-headed woodpeckers and Kentucky warblers. Many mammal species also make their home in these habitats. Black bears, squirrels, skunks, beavers, fox among many others are commonly found in bottomland hardwood forests.

Loss of bottomland hardwood habitat is primarily due to conversion to croplands, surface mining, urban development and reservoir construction. Invasive animal species, such as feral hogs, have also been responsible for the decline of the bottomland habitat. Feral hogs uproot vegetation which soil erosion, destruction of native plants and the rapid spread of weeds.

Bottomland hardwood forests are habitat for many wildlife species including waterfowl, fish, crayfish, birds, and invertebrates. Plants in these forests produce fruits, nuts, and flowers that wildlife eat. Because these forest types alternate between wet and dry periods, they support a unique assortment of invertebrates too. Found along riverbeds, bottomland forests are important travel corridors for wildlife. This publication covers the plants and wildlife found in bottomland hardwoods as well as how to manage these unique forests.

When bottomland hardwoods are leveed and flooded, the forested areas within the levees are called greentree reservoirs. These areas provide a consistent and important habitat for wintering and migrating waterfowl. This publication discusses why greentree reservoirs (GTR) are used, deciding on whether the site is suitable for a GTR, and how to design, develop, and construct a GTR.

This 14-chapter guide provides information for landowners on how to establish bottomland hardwood forests on lands where they previously existed. It covers an introduction to bottomland hardwoods, the benefits of these forests, considerations and planning for restoration, evaluating the selected site, selecting tree species to plant, and management activities.

Bottomland or floodplain forests are an integral component of the major river systems in the Midwest, with some of the largest tracts of these forests along the Mississippi River. These forests support a vast diversity of birds and other biota that researchers use to indicate ecosystem health. Detection of the presence and abundance, of both charismatic and secretive bird species, can help scientist understand the health of bottomland forests and more broadly the Mississippi River.

Species composition of bottomland hardwoods varies depending on the site, which may include American elm, green ash, black ash, eastern cottonwood, silver maple and black willow. Ash, cottonwood and silver maple are the most commercially desirable species.

The Mississippi Valley was entirely covered by bottomland hardwood forest at the time of European settlement, when it was the largest extent of that habitat type on earth. For about one hundred years, beginning with the first Swamp Land Act in 1849, the federal government provided incentives to states and landowners to reclaim, or drain, bottomland forests for agriculture or development.

Since then, over 80% of the bottomlands have been cleared, and the hydrology has been drastically altered. Much of the remaining forest exists in small fragments. An excellent set of maps clearly showing these effects in the lower Mississippi Valley can be seen at Southern Forests for the Future. The area is mostly in private ownership, and much private forest land is owned by the forest products industry or limited partnership hunting clubs and is thus likely to remain forested.

As shown nearby in the darkened areas of rivers, we occupy the farthest western reaches of this range due to the Trinity River and Red River basins. The aridness of areas to our west prevents further bottomland forests.

A seasoned hunter knows that the cost of a hunting lease for a bottomland hardwood forest is always higher than that of an upland pine forest. In fact, watching the first light and then sunrise while duck hunting in a cypress swamp is one of my favorite activities, and is etched into my memory. But why is that?

A bottomland hardwood forest is a suite of trees that grows on low sites, usually on ground made up of soil particles that are deposited by flood water, and is sometimes flooded. Most of the tree species found in bottomland forests are hardwoods, but a few, such as cypress, are conifers. Individual tree species are usually adapted to certain site conditions where they outcompete other species. Soils are usually fertile and many former bottomland hardwood sites have been converted to agricultural land.

For instance, landowners in South Carolina can now take advantage of financial assistance for managing bottomland hardwoods with practices such as controlling invasive species, thinning, or carefully planned patch cuts.

This workshop will benefit landowners interested in learning more about active management approaches to enhance forest health and function, resiliency, wildlife habitat and timber income objectives in bottomland hardwood forests. It will also be of benefit to foresters and natural resource professionals who consult with and advise private forest landowners.

This symposium is the outcome of 3 years of research by key members of the N.C. Forest Service, NCSU Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, and the USDA Forest Service. It is recommended for anyone with either ecological or economic interest in bottomland hardwood and swamp forest silviculture. Attendees will hear from researchers and practitioners from throughout the Southeastern US who have the latest data and experience in these lowland forest types. Their research considerations included overall assessment of the existing forest types in the region, best management practices for harvesting and water quality, and the potential for restoration efforts for natural and human influenced sites.

Exhibitors and poster presenters will round out the overall symposium content during planned networking breaks, meals and receptions planned for October 31 and November 1. A comprehensive field tour is planned for November 2 which will cover major types of bottomland forest systems. 041b061a72


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