Only about 2.8 million ha of an estimated original 10 million ha of bottomland hardwood forests still exist in the Lower Mississippi River Alluvial Valley (LMAV) of the United States. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and state agencies initiated reforestation efforts in the late 1980s to improve wildlife habitat. We surveyed restorationists responsible for reforestation in the LMAV to determine the magnitude of past and future efforts and to identify major limiting factors. Over the past 10 years, 77,698 ha have been reforested by the agencies represented in our survey and an additional 89,009 ha are targeted in the next 5 years. Oaks are the most commonly planted species and bare-root seedlings are the most commonly used planting stock. Problems with seedling availability may increase the diversity of plantings in the future. Reforestation in the LMAV is based upon principles of landscape ecology; however, local problems such as herbivory, drought, and flooding often limit success. Broad-scale hydrologic restoration is needed to fully restore the structural and functional attributes of these systems, but because of drastic and widespread hydrologic alterations and socioeconomic constraints, this goal is generally not realistic. Local hydrologic restoration and creation of specific habitat features needed by some wildlife and fish species warrant attention. More extensive analyses of plantings are needed to evaluate functional success. The Wetland Reserve Program is a positive development, but policies that provide additional financial incentives to landowners for reforestation efforts should be seriously considered.
Additional publication details
Evaluation of reforestation in the Lower Mississippi River Alluvial Valley