Activities associated with timber harvesting have occurred within floodplain forests in the southern United States for nearly two hundred years. However, it is only in the last ten years that any information has become available about the effects of harvesting on the ecological functions of this valuable resource. Hydrology is the driving influence behind all ecological processes in floodplains, and timber harvesting alone usually has little long-term effect on hydroperiod. However, logging roads, built in association with harvest sites, can sometimes alter hydroperiod to the extent that vegetation productivity is raised or lowered. There is no evidence that harvesting followed by natural regeneration represents a threat to ground or surface water quality on flood plain sites, as long as 'best management practices' are followed. Harvested floodplains may increase or have little effect on decomposition rates of surface organic matter. The nature of the effect seems to be controlled by site wetness. Data from recently harvested sites (i.e. within the last ten years) suggest that vegetation productivity is maintained at levels similar to those observed prior to harvests. During the early stages of stand development, tree species composition is heavily influenced by harvest method. Similarly, amphibian populations (monitored as bioindicators of ecosystem recovery) seem to rebound rapidly following harvests, although species composition may be different from that of unharvested stands.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Nature and Landscape Conservation
- Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law