Research Summaries


Compiled by Alan Carpenter

Anderson, M. G., C. E. Ferree, A. P. Olivero, and F. Zhao.
2010. Assessing floodplain Forests: using flow modeling and remote sensing to determine the best places for conservation. Natural Areas Journal 30:39-52.

Mature and diverse floodplain forests are among the world’s most diminished ecosystems and conservationists need a rapid method to identify the best remaining examples of these systems. Because large rivers and their dynamics bind the floodplain together, the method must go beyond simple inventory of remnant patches to evaluate flood processes and identify constraints in the surrounding watersheds. We develop such a method for a three million hectare watershed in New England using a combination of data types to evaluate key attributes of floodplain systems. Riparian and floodplain communities were modeled using a GIS analysis of river valley topography and riverine processes, and floodplain forest occurrences were identified in a classification and regression (CART) analysis. Current flooding was verified using overlays of remotely sensed imagery of spring and fall water levels. We evaluated the intactness of the floodplain occurrences using ratios of upstream dam storage to annual runoff, the length of the connected stream network, and the naturalness of surrounding land cover. Field-assigned ranks of forest quality were correlated with the occurrence size, percent verified flooding, and percent natural cover. Predicted quality ranks reinforced the importance of these factors. Results indicate that the twenty top-ranking streams collectively contain 75 high quality areas suitable for floodplain forest restoration and conservation. Independent verification of these areas strongly corroborated our results.


Marczak, L. B., T. Sakamaki, S. L. Turvey, I. Deguise, S. L. R. Wood, and J. S. Richardson.
2010. Are forested buffers an effective conservation strategy for riparian fauna? An assessment using meta-analysis. Ecological Applications 20:126-134.

Historically, forested riparian buffers have been created to provide protection for aquatic organisms and aquatic ecosystem functions. Increasingly, new and existing riparian buffers are being used also to meet terrestrial conservation requirements. To test the effectiveness of riparian buffers for conserving terrestrial fauna, we conducted a meta-analysis using published data from 397 comparisons of species abundance in riparian buffers and unharvested (reference) riparian sites. The response of terrestrial species to riparian buffers was not consistent between taxonomic groups; bird and arthropod abundances were significantly greater in buffers relative to unharvested areas, whereas amphibian abundance decreased. Edge-preferring species were more abundant in buffer sites than reference sites, whereas species associated with interior habitat were not significantly different in abundance. The degree of buffer effect on animal abundance was unrelated to buffer width; wider buffers did not result in greater similarity between reference and buffer sites. However, responses to buffer treatment were more variable in buffers <50 m wide, a commonly prescribed width in many management plans. Our results indicate that current buffer prescriptions do not maintain most terrestrial organisms in buffer strips at levels comparable to undisturbed sites.