Results of a workshop concerning impacts of various activities on the functions of bottomland hardwoods

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Under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has regulatory responsibilities related to the discharge of dredged or fill material into the Nation’s waters. In addition to its advisory role in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' permit program, EPA has a number of specific authorities, including formulation of the Section 404(b)(1) guidelines, use of Section 404(c) to prohibit disposal at particular sites, and enforcement actions for unauthorized discharges. A number of recent court cases focus on the geographic scope of Section 404 jurisdiction in potential bottomland hardwood (BLH) wetlands and the nature of landclearing activities in these areas that require a permit under Section 404. Accordingly, EPA needs to establish the scientific basis for implementing its responsibilities under Section 404 in bottomland hardwoods.

EPA is approaching this task through a series of workshops designed to provide current scientific information on bottomland hardwoods and to organize that information in a manner pertinent to key policy questions. The first two workshops in the series were originally conceived as technically oriented meetings that would provide the information necessary to develop policy options at the third workshop. More specifically, the first workshop was designed to examine a zonation concept as a means of characterizing different BLH communities and describing variations in their functions along a soil moisture gradient. The second workshop was perceived as an attempt to evaluate the impacts of various activities on those functions.

However, one conclusion of the first workshop, which was held in December 1984 in St. Francisville, Louisiana, was that the zonation approach does not describe the variability in the functions performed by BLH ecosystems sufficiently well to allow its use as the sole basis for developing a regulatory framework. That is, factors other than zone were considered critical for an effective characterization of the structure and functions of bottomland hardwoods.

The approach to the second workshop, the results of which are described in this report, was therefore modified in response to the conclusions from the first workshop. The focus of the second workshop remained an analysis of the impacts of various activities or the functions of BLH ecosystems. However, as a prerequisite to this analysis, participants were also asked to develop a list of characteristics that determine the extent to which BLH sites perform the important functions.

The workshop was organized such that alternating plenary and workgroup sessions allowed ample time for communication while still maintaining a focus on the overall goal. In the initial session, various individuals gave presentations concerning methodologies for evaluating the functions performed by wetlands, factors influencing the conversion of BLH forests to other uses, and the impacts of conversion activities. These were followed by a series of case study presentations designed to familiarize participants with the kinds of issues that are dealt with in the Section 404 program. These presentations are cited in this report as (author, workshop presentation).

At the conclusion of these presentations, participants were divided into six workgroups to examine the functions of BLH ecosystems in the areas of hydrology, water quality, fisheries, wildlife, ecosystem processes, and culture/recreation/economics. Each workgroup was asked to undertake the following tasks.

1. Developed a list of functions performed by BLH ecosystems from the perspective of the workgroup's expertise and area of responsibility.

2. Identify those activities (e.g., impoundment construction, conversion to soybean farming) that impact the major functions (e.g., sediment retention, detrital export) performed by BLH ecosystems.

3. Develop a list of characteristics that determine the extent to which a BLH site performs each function and describe the relationship of each characteristic to the function.

Develop, with supporting evidence where possible, an analysis of the impact of each activity (Task 2) on each characteristic (Task 3) and on each function as a whole.

Upon completion of Task 2, in an effort to provide some uniformity in the analysis by the various workgroups, EPA personnel and several participants met and compiled a complete list of all the activities identified as having significant impacts in bottomland hardwoods (Table 1). From this list the group derived a set of seven activities, and a number of specific actions associated with each, for analysis by the workgroups (Table 2). These activities were selected on the basis of their perceived importance in BLH ecosystems and their interest from the perspective of EPA. Each workgroup was also encourage to ass any activities of particular important from its perspective.

The workgroup reports that follow document the results of discussion concerning the above tasks. The WORKSHOP SUMMARY attempts to summarize these workgroup results, discuss availability of information, and identify some problems that must be addressed prior to the third workshop in this series.

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype Other Report
Title Results of a workshop concerning impacts of various activities on the functions of bottomland hardwoods
Series number NEC-87/15
Year Published 1987
Language English
Publisher U.S. Fish and Wildlidfe Service, National Ecology Center
Publisher location Fort Collins, CO
Description 171 p.
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