Saturated ground a wait-and-see game for woodland owners
By Mary Hightower
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture
- One flood event, not likely to injury bottomland forests
- Standing water a threat to newly planted trees
- More info on flooding/forestry: http://uaex.uada.edu/environment-nature/disaster/flood-impacts.aspx
HOPE, Ark. – Arkansas’ rain-saturated ground is presenting a wait-and-see game for woodland owners, according to forestry experts with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
“I think that the biggest threat to a woodland owner is the saturated soil and the very real possibility of trees being uprooted by future storms and wind,” said Tamara Walkingstick, associate director of the Arkansas Forest Resources Center. Given the typically dry nature of Arkansas summers, Walkingstick said she expects most forested areas to dry out in a few months without any long-term damage to trees.
However, in the landscape, saturated ground and high winds from multiple storms are a dangerous one-two punch.
“Homeowners need to walk their property to check for danger to houses and other property from trees whose roots have been loosened by lingering saturation,” she said.
Trees most likely to be in standing water are those already adapted to soggy bottomlands, and while mature trees can withstand the wet, that’s not the case with younger trees, said Caroll Guffey, program associate with the Arkansas Forest Resources Center.
“Newly planted trees might not survive if the water stands on them for two weeks or so,” he said. “In that case it could be a problem but in any case there is nothing to do but wait till the water goes down and then look to see what the water has done, if anything.”
Jon Barry, an extension forester based at Hope, said standing water isn’t the only problem forests face.
“Trees at the edges of flooded stands can be damaged by large debris flowing with
floodwaters,” he said. “That's going to be a small percentage of trees in the forest,
“Standing water is much harder on trees than flowing water. If the floods come up quickly and drop out quickly there will be no serious damage,” Barry said. “Mature trees are tough. One flooding event isn't likely to seriously injure the trees. A series of floods, or several years of repeated flooding can be a problem.”
Barry said that the greater risk to bottomland hardwood stands isn’t the flooding, but the drying-out process.
"People returning to the bottomlands -- whether they're checking their land or out there for recreational purposes -- should exercise caution to prevent damage to root systems from ATV and other vehicle traffic," Barry said.
For more information about flooding and forestry, visit http://uaex.uada.edu/environment-nature/disaster/flood-impacts.aspx or contact your county extension office.
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Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service