Ecology of tidal freshwater forests in coastal deltaic Louisiana and northeastern South Carolina: Chapter 9

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Abstract

Tidal freshwater swamps in the southeastern United States are subjected to tidal hydroperiods ranging in amplitude from microtidal (<0.1 m) to mesotidal (2-4 m), both having different susceptibilities to anthropogenic change. Small alterations in flood patterns, for example, can switch historically microtidal swamps to permanently flooded forests, scrub-shrub stands, marsh, or open water but are less likely to convert mesotidal swamps. Changes to hydrological patterns tend to be more noticeable in Louisiana than do those in South Carolina.

The majority of Louisiana’s coastal wetland forests are found in the Mississippi River deltaic plain region. Coastal wetland forests in the deltaic plain have been shaped by the sediments, water, and energy of the Mississippi River and its major distributaries. Baldcypress (Taxodium distichum [L.] L.C. Rich.) and water tupelo (Nyssa aquatica L.) are the primary tree species in the coastal swamp forests of Louisiana. Sites where these species grow usually hold water for most of the year; however, some of the more seaward sites were historically microtidal, especially where baldcypress currently dominates. In many other locations, baldcypress and water tupelo typically grow in more or less pure stands or as mixtures of the two with common associates such as black willow (Salix nigra Marsh.), red maple (Acer rubrum L.), water locust (Gleditsia aquatic Marsh.), overcup oak (Quercus lyrata Walt.), water hickory (Carya aquatica [Michx. f.] Nutt.), green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica Marsh.), pumpkin ash (F. profunda Bush.), and redbay (Persea borbonia [L.] Sprengel) (Brown and Montz 1986).

The South Carolina coastal plain occupies about two-thirds of the state and rises gently to 150 m from the Atlantic Ocean up to the Piedmont plateau. Many rivers can be found in the Coastal Plain with swamps near the coast that extend inland along the rivers. Strongly tidal freshwater forests occur along the lower reaches of redwater rivers (Santee, Great Pee Dee, and Savannah) that arise in the mountains and along the numerous blackwater rivers (Ashepoo, Combahee, Cooper, and Waccamaw) that arise in the coastal regions. Most of the tidal freshwater forests were converted to tidal rice fields in the 1700s (Porcher 1995). Canopy members of the present day forests include baldcypress, water tupelo, swamp tupelo (N. biflora Walt.), red maple, and Carolina ash (Fraxinus caroliniana Miller). Subcanopy and shrub species include Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica L.), dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor (Jacquin) Pers.), coastal plain willow (Salix caroliniana Michx.), redbay, and water-elm (Planera aquatica Gmel.).

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Additional publication details

Publication type Book chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Title Ecology of tidal freshwater forests in coastal deltaic Louisiana and northeastern South Carolina: Chapter 9
DOI 10.1007/978-1-4020-5095-4_9
Year Published 2007
Language English
Publisher Springer
Publisher location Dordrecht
Description 31 p.
Larger Work Type Book
Larger Work Subtype Monograph
Larger Work Title Ecology of tidal freshwater forested wetlands of the southeastern United States
First page 223
Last page 253
Country United States
State Louisiana, South Carolina