Report describes the status and trends of bottomland hardwood forests in the Albemarle Sound

The 6-million-acre Albemarle Sound, draining from southeast Virginia into northeast North Carolina, contains some of the largest areas of bottomland hardwood forest in the Eastern United States. These forests have long served as a fiber source for a robust forest products industry while also providing valuable wildlife habitat and drinking water for several large cities, including Norfolk and Virginia Beach. The Sound’s forests also have been a focus of conservation priority for some government agencies and environmental organizations.

A recent report by Jean H. Lorber of The Nature Conservancy and Anita K. Rose of the U.S. Forest Service uses data from the Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) Program to describe the current state of the Sound’s forests.

The abstract for the report follows.

“The Albemarle Sound, a 6-million-acre watershed, contains some of the largest areas of bottomland hardwood habitat in the Eastern United States. Using close to 30 years of data from the Forest Inventory and Analysis Program, a study of the current status and trends in the Albemarle Sound’s bottomland forest system was conducted. In 2012, bottomlands totaled approximately 800,000 acres and were composed of mainly swamps/bogs and floodplains. Swamps/bogs were dominated by tupelo (Nyssa) species and cypress (Taxodium distichum), while floodplains were dominated by tupelo, red maple (Acer rubrum), and a diverse mixture of hardwood species. Just over half of bottomland acreage was <60 years old, and younger forest had less tupelo and cypress than did older forest, but more loblolly pine. Over the last 30 years, the acreage of bottomland forest has not changed. Periods of overharvesting have occurred; the growth-to-removals ratio from the mid‑1980s through the early 2000s was never higher than 1.2, and has since varied from 0.3 to 3.4. The net result is that total live-tree volume declined by 8 percent from its peak in 2002. The changes in growth and harvesting are reasonable when put in context with the region’s recent history, both economic and ecologic.”

Reference 

Lorber, J.H. and A.K. Rose. 2015. Status of bottomland forests in the Albemarle Sound of North Carolina and Virginia, 1984–2012. e-Research Paper SRS–54. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Southern Research Station. http://www.srs.fs.usda.gov/pubs/48894