Synopsis of wetland functions and values: bottomland hardwoods with special emphasis on eastern Texas and Oklahoma

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Bottomland hardwood wetlands are the natural cover type of many floodplain ecosystems in the southeastern United States. They are dynamic, productive systems that depend on intermittent flooding and moving water for maintenance of structure and function. Many of the diverse functions performed by bottomland hardwoods (e.g., flood control, sediment trapping, fish and wildlife habitat) are directly or indirectly valued by humans. Balanced decisions regarding bottomland hardwoods are often hindered by a limited ability to accurately specify the functions being performed by these systems and, furthermore, by an inability to evaluate these functions in economic terms. This report addresses these informational needs. It focuses on the bottomland hardwoods of eastern Texas and Oklahoma, serving as an introduction and entry to the literature. It is not intended to serve as a substitute for reference to the original literature.

The first section of the report is a review of the major functions of bottomland hardwoods, grouped under the headings of hydrology, water quality, productivity, detritus, nutrients, and habitat. Although the hydrology of these areas is diverse and complex, especially with respect to groundwater, water storage at high flows can clearly function to attenuate peak flows, with possible reductions in downstream flooding damage. Water moving through a bottomland hardwood system carries with it various organic and inorganic constituents, including sediment, organic matter, nutrients, and pollutants. When waterborne materials are introduced to bottomland hardwoods (from river flooding or upland runoff), they may be retained, transformed, or transported. As a result, water quality may be significantly altered and improved. The fluctuating and flowing water regime of bottomland hardwoods is associated with generally high net primary productivity and rapid fluxes of organic matter and nutrients. These, in turn, support secondary productivity in the bottomland hardwoods and downstream through detrital export. A large number of studies detail the extensive utilization of bottomland hardwoods by animals. Several basic habitat components contribute to this support function, including:

1. Fluctuating water levels and permanent bodies of water,

2. Hard mast (e.g., acorns),

3. Dens and cavities,

4. High soil fertility,

5. Diversity of food and cover,

6. Predominance of woody plant communities,

7. Close proximity of diverse structural features, and

8. Linear features providing movement corridors.

The second section of the report focuses on the bottomlands of eastern Texas and Oklahoma, including topics such as climate, soils, water resources, historical perspective, vegetation, and fauna. Considerable attention is given to structural characteristics in this section, in order to provide contrasts with bottomland hardwood ecosystems in other areas. In general, the bottomland hardwoods of eastern Texas and Oklahoma are very similar to those elsewhere in the southeastern United States. Differences include the occurrence and relative importance of some community types and plant species and the greater importance of reservoir construction as a source of bottomland hardwoods loss in eastern Texas and Oklahoma. Again, information on faunal utilization is extensive relative to the information available concerning other functions.

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Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
Other Report
Synopsis of wetland functions and values: bottomland hardwoods with special emphasis on eastern Texas and Oklahoma
Year Published:
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of the Interior
Publisher location:
Washington, D.C.
132 p.
Larger Work Type:
Larger Work Subtype:
Other Report
Larger Work Title:
Biological Report
United States