Modifying Hydrologic Management of Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Greentree Reservoirs for Long-term Habitat Sustainability

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Luke Naylor, Tom Foti, Jason Jackson, and Rob Willey

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Bottomland hardwood forests (BLH) once were the dominant landcover in wetlands of the southeastern United States. Historical coverage in the lower Mississippi River Alluvial Valley (MAV) was estimated at 19-25 million acres, but these habitats have been reduced by about 75% today. Mallards evolved to respond to the natural hydrologic pattern of variable BLH flooding in late fall and early winter. Early conservationists – primarily duck hunters – saw value in these unique wetland habitats. In the 1930s, landowners around Stuttgart, Arkansas, created the first greentree reservoirs (GTRs) by constructing levees to consistently provide waterfowl habitat and hunting opportunity. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) constructed GTRs assuming their management imitated natural flooding and would not have negative impacts on plant communities. Research now highlights negative effects as a result of the artificial hydroperiods created by GTR management, including increased overstory tree mortality and low regeneration rates of seedlings and saplings of desirable species. Current GTR evaluation, restoration and management planning has shifted focus to the emulation of natural hydrologic regimes across a complex of wetlands rather than providing consistent public hunting opportunity at the expense of long-term system integrity. Our GTR evaluation team has focused on analyzing individual GTR infrastructure, management and ecological setting. We are using hydrogeomorphic analysis principles to define forest communities based on forest inventory plot data assigned to elevation using LiDAR imagery. We can relate inundation levels to forest communities in order to adapt restoration and future management to the requirements of key species and communities

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program