Management of Forested Wetland Ecosystems in the Central Hardwood Region
Edited by Scott D. Roberts and Ronald A. Rathfon
Forested wetland ecosystems currently comprise a relatively small, yet potentially
important and overlooked portion of the landscapes of the Central Hardwood
Region. Prior to European settlement, several million acres of forested
wetlands existed within the region. This has been reduced to a fraction
of the original area as much of the land has been converted to urban, agricultural,
or other industrial uses.
Forested wetlands have many functions and can potentially provide many ecologic
as well as economic benefits. Wetlands regulate water flows, thus helping
to dampen the peaks and troughs in channel flow. They protect stream and
river banks from erosion, and improve water quality by filtering sediments
and pollutants before they reach flowing water. Wetlands also provide habitat
for a wide range of plants and animals, including a disproportionate number
of threatened, endangered, and sensitive species. In addition to these ecological
functions, forested wetlands often have the potential to be extremely productive
in terms of timber and other forest products.
Forested wetlands are currently receiving considerable attention from both
research and the media. Most of the research has been centered in the Southeast
United States. Comparatively little research has been performed in the forested
wetlands of the upper midwest states; thus, natural resource professionals
in the region are making management decisions from a limited knowledge base.
Because of ecological and legal uncertainties, some practitioners and landowners
avoid management of forested wetland sites. There is a demonstrated need
for more basic knowledge on forested wetland ecosystems in the Central Hardwood
These proceedings contain papers delivered at a workshop on "Management
of Forested Wetland Ecosystems in the Central Hardwood Region" held
in Evansville, Indiana in October 1994. The original purpose of the workshop
was to pull together existing information on the ecology and management
of forested wetlands in the Central Hardwood Region. It soon became apparent,
however, that there was a paucity of information about these ecosystems
within the region. We found ourselves, therefore, going to other regions
for speakers, particularly to the Southern and Southeastern Regions which
have a long history of research on, and management of, bottomland forests.
Hopefully, by borrowing from the experience of other regions, we can begin
to enhance our knowledge and understanding of forested wetlands within the
Central Hardwood Region.
We structured the workshop to move from the more basic information on how
forested wetland ecosystems function to the more applied aspects of managing
these systems. The workshop opened with an overview of the topic, starting
with a national perspective and then focusing in on the forested wetland
resource in the Central Hardwood region. We also looked at the unique legal
and social aspects of forested wetlands.
We then moved on to the functioning of forested wetlands. We heard about
soil and hydrological characteristics at the local scale, followed by how
these systems fit into the watershed or landscape scale. Day one concluded
with a series of papers on the flora and fauna of forested wetlands, and
some of the functions they serve in these ecosystems.
Much of day two of the workshop concentrated on aspects of managing forested
wetlands. We heard about some of the silvicultural challenges and special
operating considerations that managers must be aware of. Research challenges
and opportunities to enhance our current knowledge of managment of these
systems we've discussed. We closed with a paper on the restoration of degraded
forested wetlands, a subject that certainly deserved additional attention
in the Central Hardwood Region.
The workshop concluded with a field tour of forested wetlands. At the Willow
Slough Fish and Wildlife Area in northwestern Kentucky, we observed the
management of a green tree reservoir system, and discussed design principles
of both green tree reservoirs and moist soil management units. We had a
demonstration of tree planting and direct seeding for regeneration in forested
wetlands. The field tour ended with an in-the-woods discussion on the management
of bottomland hardwood forests. The tour provided excellent opportunities
for some of the speakers to expand upon the information given in their earlier
talks, and allowed workshop participants to interact with the speakers in
an informal setting.
In general, participants felt that the workshop was a success. We hope that
the information presented at the workshop, and captured in these proceedings,
will help to improve the understanding and management of forested wetland
ecosystems in the Central Hardwood Region.
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