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Plant community establishment following drawdown of a reservoir in southern Arkansas, USA

January 31, 2010

Wetland area, function and wildlife habitat value are extensively altered by the construction of freshwater reservoirs. We studied the effects of a temporary drawdown on shoreline vegetation communities of Felsenthal Navigation Pool (“the pool”), an impoundment at Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge in southern Arkansas that is managed as a greentree reservoir. The pool was permanently flooded from 1985 until the summer of 1995 when the water level was dropped 0.3 m for about 16 weeks, exposing about 1,591 ha of soil. To document plant succession on the sediments exposed, we recorded plant species composition and cover at 14 transects along the pool margin prior to the drawdown, during the drawdown, and in the following summer. A soil disturbance treatment was applied near five transects following the drawdown, and soil was collected at each transect for seed bank and soil analyses. Plants colonized the drawdown zone quickly and high vegetation cover was present at some transects 4 weeks after the drawdown was initiated. Plants included species that are high quality food sources for waterfowl, including Cyperus erythrorhizos and Leptochloa fascicularis var. fascicularis. Vegetation response, measured by species richness, total cover, and cover of Cyperus species, was often greater at low compared to high elevations in the drawdown zone; this effect was probably intensified by low summer rainfall. Response on the disturbed transects was lower than that on the undisturbed transects. This effect was attributed to two factors: (1) removal of the existing seed bank by the disturbance applied and (2) reduced incorporation of seeds recruited during the drawdown because of unusually low rainfall. Seed bank studies demonstrated that several species persisted despite 10 years of continual flooding, and that seed bank species richness increased during the drawdown. Although conclusions are limited by the 1-year time frame of the study, it is unlikely that permanent change to plant community structure in the drawdown zone resulted from the lowered water level.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2009
Title Plant community establishment following drawdown of a reservoir in southern Arkansas, USA
DOI 10.1007/s11273-009-9134-x
Authors Rebecca J. Howard, Christopher J. Wells
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Wetlands Ecology and Management
Index ID 70201881
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Wetland and Aquatic Research Center