Bottomland Forest Ecosystem Fact Sheet
A Shrinking Resource
Once, about 24 million acres of bottomland forest spread throughout the floodplain of the Lower Mississippi River Alluvial Valley from southern Illinois to coastal Louisiana. Today, fewer than 5 million acres remain. This represents over 80% of the loss of forested wetlands along the Mississippi River during the last 150 years. In fact, for states within the Lower Mississippi River Valley, the remaining bottomland forest ecosystem is considered to be either threatened (70-84% decline) or endangered (85-98% decline). For contrast, only about 10% of the Amazon tropical forests have been cut.
The majority of the remaining bottomland forests (~67%) are found along stream margins and drainage ways. Over the last 100 years the floodplain available for natural flood storage has been reduced about 90%, and the flood storage capacity of the delta has been reduced from about 60 to 12 days of mean daily discharge.
Acres Planted by U.S.
Fish & Wildlife Service: 101,000
Although protection from flooding and land clearing for agriculture and other land uses was a logical action that has contributed significantly to the economy of the region, many natural resource values have been reduced or lost:
|Excessive logging of mature bottomland forests is believed to be the main reason for the extinction of the ivory-billed woodpecker.|
|The black bear, once common, is now found only in a few remaining large forested bottomland areas such as the White River and Atchafalaya basin.|
Many other species of wildlife (e.g., waterfowl, neotropical migrant birds such as the Prothonotary Warbler, swamp rabbit, bobcat) have experienced population declines as the bottomland forests have been converted or fragmented into smaller patches.
|Water quality has also deteriorated with the loss of bottomland forest ecosystems:|
|Audubon's trip down the Mississippi River and up the Yazoo River in Mississippi described the Yazoo as a clear river that one could look down into the water and see fish. Today, erosion and sedimentation have resulted in muddy waters most of the time.|
in Many Ways
Bottomland forests have many important values and functions:
|Provides essential habitat for many species of animals and plants. For example, nationally, about 80% of our breeding birds require bottomland forests for survival. North America's rarest songbird, the Bachmans Warbler, and the recently rediscovered Ivory-billed woodpecker, may still survive somewhere in the remaining bottomland forest areas of the Lower Mississippi River Alluvial Valley.|
|Provides spawning, nursery and feeding habitat for many warm-water fish.|
|A source of many products for people, such as food, timber, and other forest products.|
|Serves as a temporary storage area for floodwaters helping to protect nearby and downstream property.|
|Provides water quality protection and improvement by reducing erosion and removing excess nutrients and pollutants.|
|Provides outdoor recreation opportunities such as bird watching, camping, hiking, hunting, fishing, and photography.|
|A source of unique beauty.|
Can You Do to Help
Many people have come to appreciate the unique values of bottomland forest ecosystems and have recognized the significance of the tremendous losses over the years.
More and more private landowners have expressed their interest in protecting and restoring bottomland forests for themselves and future generations.
Currently, planning, technical, and financial assistance are available from several Federal agencies and some state agencies and conservation groups.
Contact these groups for more information:
Fish and Wildlife Service
Partners for Fish & Wildlife Program (Contact the nearest Fish and Wildlife Service Office)
Resources Conservation Service
Wetland Reserve Program
All USDA Conservation Programs
Forest Stewardship Programs
Debt reduction easements for conservation purposes
Information and Coordination
The State Forestry Agency
State Soil and Water
State Game and Fish Agency
The Nature Conservancy
Private consulting foresters