Thomas J. Lent
see also: Shear, T.H., T.J. Lent, and S. Fraver. 1996. Comparison of restored and mature bottomland hardwood forests of southwestern Kentucky. Restoration Ecology 4(2):111-123.
Naturally and artificially regenerated bottomland hardwood forests in southwestern Kentucky were evaluated in terms of their development toward mature bottomland hardwood forests. Three 50-year-old naturally regenerated bottomland forests and three 50-year-old planted bottomland forests were inventoried to determine current structural and compositional status. Increment cores were analyzed to reconstruct historical developmental trends and lower strata inventories were used to predict future trends. Reference data was collected from three mature, naturally regenerated bottomland forests. The results indicate that both regeneration methods have adequately replaced the structural attributes of the historical bottomland forest. Future development will eliminate any currently existing structural differences. Neither regeneration method has replaced the wildlife value of the reference stands due to insufficient early establishment and subsequent ingrowth of heavy mast species. All sites, including the mature stands, are succeeding from hydric to mesic species compositions as a result of human-altered hydrology and natural floodplain processes. The historical bottomland species composition will probably not persist on any of the study sites in the future. This study indicates that landscape-level alterations of the hydrologic cycle have led to areal reductions in functional bottomland forest wetlands with concomitant losses of floodplain services. Management implications include the need to reassess bottomland areal estimations and to reevaluate restoration priorities and procedures.