Richard F. Keim
The productivity and composition of wetland forests depend strongly on hydrological conditions. Minor changes in the frequency, duration and seasonality of flooding can favor establishment and growth of entirely separate groups of species. Swamp forests, dominated by baldcypress and water tupelo, are particularly sensitive to changes because they occupy a narrow range of hydrological conditions. Water management and flood control structures have affected most coastal wetlands in Louisiana, and coastal wetland forests have been experiencing large-scale and pervasive changes in hydrological conditions. There have been reductions in vigor and ecosystem conversions in many places.
Effective management and restoration planning of coastal swamps require understanding where effects of changing hydrology are greatest. However, there is no comprehensive information available, nor do methods exist for assembling the required data.
Two new research projects by the LSU AgCenter will enable the use of satellite data to map swamp forest conditions. First, researchers are assessing how satellite imagery correspond to vigor and canopy structure of swamp forests. Second, researchers are beginning work to use a separate set of satellite data to map flooding. The new tools developed by this research will enable resource managers to make informed decisions about how best to manage these important ecosystems.
Richard F. Keim, Assistant Professor, School of Renewable Natural Resources, LSU AgCenter, Baton Rouge, La.
(This article was published in the spring 2006 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)