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An inconvenient trend: Decadal decline in ground height of swamps in Southern Illinois

September 14, 2023

An understanding of the long-term trends of ground height and sedimentation in a landscape context can provide a framework to better understand the impacts of agricultural development on floodplain processes. This study examined long-term changes in ground height using surface elevation tables (SETs) and sediment deposition measurements in the Cache River floodplains of Southern Illinois including Taxodium distichum swamps in Crawford Tract and Eagle Pond from 2019 to 2022 and in Deer Pond and Snake Hole from 2005 to 2022. The mean ground heights of these swamps decreased by a mean of −0.33, −033, −0.28 and −0.19 cm year−1, respectively. Annual sediment deposition on feldspar markers in Crawford Tract was negligible from 2020 to 2022 (range of annual deposition depth: <0.1 to 0.4 cm). However, sediment deposition at Deer Pond and Snake Hole was higher from 2006 to 2021 (range of annual deposition depth: <0.1–2.5 and <1 to 2.0 cm, respectively). In some years, the sites appeared scoured, and the feldspar markers had disappeared. The loss of ground height in these swamps could be related to erosion, increased precipitation and/or downcutting of the channel following the construction of a major diversion to dewater the floodplain via the Post Creek Cutoff in the early 1900s. Despite the limitations of this study toward revealing specific mechanisms linking floodplain erosion to channel downcutting and the engineered features of this landscape, this study clearly showed that Cache floodplains have lost height in past decades with potential consequences for the conservation of natural forests.

Publication Year 2023
Title An inconvenient trend: Decadal decline in ground height of swamps in Southern Illinois
DOI 10.1002/eco.2587
Authors Beth Middleton
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecohydrology
Index ID 70248991
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Wetland and Aquatic Research Center