April 13, 2024

Protecting and Restoring the Floodplain Forest

Early Natural Heritage inventories acknowledged the environmental worth of the floodplain forest there, which consisted of some of the older age-class forest in the area.
As far as forested wetlands, there is precious little left of old growth forests or even forests in fully grown age classes. There is valuable little left of old development forests or even forests in mature age classes. “According to the States Natural Heritage Program, this is the most outstanding bottomland black river hardwood forest in the State,” land security supervisor Hervey McIver stated in the publication Afield North Carolina. “Were reconnecting the forests to the river water that is high nutrients.

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Results like that, Piazza states, is why the Conservancys financial investment over decades in floodplain forests are so valuable. Donors who have actually supported these projects can see concrete, enduring arise from their financial investment.
” Whatever conservation result you care about, whether its fisheries or water quality or addressing environment change or safeguarding migratory bird environment, floodplain forest preservation can do that,” says Piazza. “You can achieve all of that. Protecting those forests, and restoring them, can accomplish all of that.”

Chuck Peoples grew up along the Roanoke River, walking its banks as a kid. You may be expecting his reminisces to be filled with fond memories, perhaps with a sense of loss. Thats how nature stories so often go. This isnt that story.
Peoples recalls a Roanoke River that ran brown with pulp from paper mills. Fish eliminates were common. Dams left however provided necessary services deteriorated banks and degraded greenery downstream.
” There were zero conservation lands along the Roanoke,” says Peoples, now director of preservation programs for The Nature Conservancy in North Carolina.
Quick forward to today: the Roanoke Rivers floodplain consists of the biggest least-disturbed and intact bottomland wood forest environment staying in the mid-Atlantic area. To date, more than 95,000 acres have been safeguarded, consisting of a national wildlife haven and several preserves.
That preservation, Peoples highlights, didnt take place over night. The Nature Conservancy received its first donation of arrive on the Roanoke in 1982. Early Natural Heritage stocks acknowledged the eco-friendly worth of the floodplain forest there, which included a few of the older age-class forest in the region.
Forests along the Roanoke River. © Chuck Peoples/ TNC
In 1989, the Conservancy bought 10,626 acres along the river that became the Roanoke National Wildlife Refuge. In 1994, Georgia-Pacific Corporation and the Conservancy got in into an arrangement to collectively manage and protect roughly 21,000 acres on the Roanoke. And in 2006, The Nature Conservancy acquired 22,000 acres along the Roanoke from International Paper, as part of the largest-ever land conservation task in the southern United States.
” It is really reflective of TNCs continuity of function and dedication to location,” says Peoples. “The best-available science showed the significance of conserving the Roanoke River floodplains.
Which work didnt stop with acquiring lands. 3 dams on the river provided vital flood security and power generation, however also altered circulations. Considering that 2002, the Conservancy has actually dealt with the Corps of Engineers on dam releases that mimic natural flows, offering pulses of water to the floodplain forest that offer for greenery and fish migration and spawning.
” We bought the science, in comprehending this natural system and in putting conservation on the ground,” says Peoples. “That is, to my mind, a lovely thing. And the very best part is this story is not distinct to the Roanoke.”
Floodplain forests are some of the most biologically essential and endangered habitats in the southeastern United States. Thats why they have actually been a focus of The Nature Conservancy for years.
Trees at Forests along the Roanoke River. © Chuck Peoples/ TNCRiver
The Swamp
A lot of nature fans and conservationists now acknowledge the significance of wetlands, but “swamps” continue to get a bad rap. When European colonization of North America began, swamps were considered bit more than harbors of disease and plague. One big wetland area was even named the Great Dismal Swamp.
Wetlands have actually been drained and developed for centuries. Numerous have been cleared for farming or real estate. As far as forested wetlands, there is precious little left of old development forests and even forests in mature age classes. Recent years have actually seen increases in harvesting of fully grown floodplain forests, consisting of for biomass pellets that are shipped overseas.
Lake Drummond, Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. Image © Tom Hamilton/ TNC
And yet, conservationists now acknowledge the lots of values of wetlands. They offer habitat for waterfowl, a diversity of fish types and numerous other wildlife. They often assist provide tidy water and deal flood security.
Thats why The Nature Conservancy has a long history of investing in wetland protection and restoration.
In the 1930s ecologists frantically desired to acquire a bottomland forest in Louisiana understood as the Singer Tract, thought to harbor the last population of ivory-billed woodpeckers. This would ultimately lead to the creation of The Nature Conservancy in 1951.
Wetlands have been a focal area of the company since. Wetland conservation takes lots of types, from the remediation of river oxbows at places like the extensive Emiquon Preserve in Illinois to the creation of “pop-up wetlands” in California rice fields.
In the southeastern United States, forested wetlands have been acknowledged as being of vital value. There is valuable little left of old growth forests and even forests in fully grown age classes. Current years have seen increases in harvesting of mature floodplain forests, including for biomass pellets that are shipped overseas.
Here too, the Conservancy has invested in safeguarding and bring back these floodplain forests for years.
Forests along the Roanoake River. © Mark Daniels/ TNC
Field to Forest
In the 1970s and 1960s, the Louisiana floodplain forest now understood as Mollicy Farms suffered a familiar fate. The cost of soybeans was increasing quickly, and the fertile soils at Mollicy were considered (incorrectly, it ends up) prime agricultural land.
” Landowners were clearing forests and getting beans on the ground. And that boom simply devastated floodplain forests.”
The landowners installed a 17-mile levee system to detach the Ouachita River from its floodplain. They set up straight-line ditches to keep water out of the fields. But the agricultural capacity of Mollicy Farms never emerged.
” This property was never ever indicated to be farmed,” states Rice. “They tried for years. It didnt work.”
Cypress trees in Black Bayou Lake, near Mollicy Farms,, Louisiana. This area becomes part of the National Wildlife Refuge system. © Ian Shive/ TNC
In 1998, the Conservancy assisted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) obtain much of Mollicy Farms and include it to the Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuge. The Fish and Wildlife Service planted more than three million bald cypress, oak and ash trees on almost 11,000 acres of the haven to restore the floodplain forest.
In 2009, the Conservancy and USFWS started undertaking what is believed to be the biggest floodplain reconnection project in the Mississippi River Basin and one of the largest ever carried out in the whole United States.
The Conservancy and USFWS planned to breach the levee in 2009 to bring back the connection between the river and the floodplain that is not just critical to the long-lasting health of the forest however to the fish and other water life in the Ouachita River.
Mollicy Farms, Monroe, Louisiana. © Ian Shive/ TNC
That spring, the Ouachita River rose to historic levels and the levee broke catastrophically in two locations. It was simply what the 16,000-acre Mollicy unit required. However the Conservancy and USFWS desired a more planned, irreversible fix.
In 2010, the remediation began, with deliberate breaking of the levees, restoring the streambed of a 3-mile long stream and fixing the internal hydrology.
The task has actually helped reduce flooding downstream, enhanced water quality, and restored valuable fish and wildlife environment.
” It will take decades to stabilize itself out,” states Rice. “We continue to look at whats working and whats not. However were currently seeing advantages. This is not only assisting the floodplain forest be restored, its also assisting improve water quality in an impaired river.”
The sun sets over the cypress trees at Lake Martin in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, within the Atchafalaya River Basin. © Rory Doyle/ TNC
A Legacy of Protection
Around the Southeast, the Conservancy utilizes a range of preservation techniques and partnerships to safeguard floodplain forests. Generous donors and members have actually developed an unequaled legacy of conservation success. Like the Roanoke River and Mollicy Farm efforts, a lot of these projects protect large-scale forested wetlands.
Despite its name, conservationists now know theres absolutely nothing miserable about the Great Dismal Swamp that straddles Virginia and North Carolina. It was the site of the first business contribution to the Conservancy: 49,000 acres from the Union Camp Corporation that ended up being the core of the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. That refuge has actually because grown to 112,000 acres and the Conservancy continues to work on habitat restoration there.
Or think about the Black River, a location of more recent conservation focus for The Nature Conservancy in North Carolina. The Black River is renowned for its ancient trees– bald cypress in the Three Sisters Swamp dating back to at least 605 BCE, making them the fifth oldest tree types on the planet. “According to the States Natural Heritage Program, this is the most outstanding bottomland black river hardwood forest in the State,” land security manager Hervey McIver stated in the publication Afield North Carolina. “It is the finest.”
The Black River is an extraordinary location to kayak and canoe. © Andrew Kornylak
Along the Black River, the Conservancy is utilizing a range of preservation strategies, consisting of conservation easements that permit landowners to maintain ownership while protecting key environment.
While the Conservancy owns over 6,360 acres on the Black River outright, consisting of the majority of the ancient bald cypress swamps, McIver sees preservation easements as a tool that may be more practical on this stretch of the river where most landowners want to hold onto their land.
” An easement allows them to monetize their timber without having to suffice,” he says. “The homeowner still owns the land where they can hunt or fish, but the easement avoids logging, advancement, and other actions that would threaten the forests.”
On the Savannah River on the Georgia/South Carolina border, the Conservancys work has progressed into a model for sustainable dam operations. This consists of seasonal dam releases that will help restore more than 60,000 acres of floodplain forest.
A boat travels through the overload near Belle River, Louisiana, within the Atchafalaya River Basin. © Rory Doyle/ TNC
In the Atchafalaya Basin of Louisiana, the forests are still there, as are the wetland locations. “Were reconnecting the forests to the river water that is high nutrients. When these flooded forests are healthy, the crawfish grow twice as quick.