Reforestation of Bottomland Hardwoods and the Issue of Woody Species Diversity

Authors

  • James A. Allen

    1. National Biological Service, Southern Science Center, 700 Cajundome Boulevard, Lafayette, LA 70506, U.S.A.
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    • *Current address: U.S. Forest Service, Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry, 1151 Punchbowl Street, Room 323, Honolulu, HI 96813, U.S.A.


Abstract

Bottomland hardwood forests in the southcentral United States have been cleared extensively for agriculture, and many of the remaining forests are fragmented and degraded. During the last decade, however, approximately 75,000 ha of land—mainly agricultural fields—have been replanted or contracted for replanting, with many more acres likely to be reforested in the near future. The approach used in most reforestation projects to date has been to plant one to three overstory tree species, usually Quercus spp. (oaks), and to rely on natural dispersal for the establishment of other woody species. I critique this practice by two means. First, a brief literature review demonstrates that moderately high woody species diversity occurs in natural bottomland hardwood forests in the region. This review, which relates diversity to site characteristics, serves as a basis for comparison with stands established by means of current reforestation practices. Second, I reevaluate data on the invasion of woody species from an earlier study of 10 reforestation projects in Mississippi, with the goal of assessing the likelihood that stands with high woody species diversity will develop. I show that natural invasion cannot always be counted on to produce a diverse stand, particularly on sites more than about 60 m from an existing forest edge. I then make several recommendations for altering current reforestation practices in order to establish stands with greater woody species diversity, a more natural appearance, and a more positive environmental impact at scales larger than individual sites.

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