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Afforestation of bottomland hardwood forests has historically emphasized planting heavy-seeded tree species such as oak (Quercus spp.) and pecan (Caryaillinoensis) with little or no silvicultural management during stand development. Slow growth of these tree species, herbivory, competing vegetation, and limited seed dispersal, often result in restored sites that are slow to develop vertical vegetation structure and have limited tree diversity. Where soils and hydrology permit, agroforestry can provide transitional management that mitigates these historical limitations on converting cropland to forests. Planting short-rotation woody crops and intercropping using wide alleyways are two agroforestry practices that are well suited for transitional management. Weed control associated with agroforestry systems benefits planted trees by reducing competition. The resultant decrease in herbaceous cover suppresses small mammal populations and associated herbivory of trees and seeds. As a result, rapid vertical growth is possible that can 'train' under-planted, slower-growing, species and provide favorable environmental conditions for naturally invading trees. Finally, annual cropping of alleyways or rotational pulpwood harvest of woody crops provides income more rapidly than reliance on future revenue from traditional silviculture. Because of increased forest diversity, enhanced growth and development, and improved economic returns, we believe that using agroforestry as a transitional management strategy during afforestation provides greater benefits to landowners and to the environment than does traditional bottomland hardwood afforestation.
Additional Publication Details
Synergy of agroforestry and bottomland hardwood afforestation