The loss of forested wetlands in the Lower Mississippi River Alluvial Valley in Arkansas has altered regional vegetation communities. Multiple restoration projects have been established in this region to restore wetlands and the services they provide. In order to return these functions to the environment, microtopographic features were constructed in 2001 at Bob White Memorial Wetlands Research and Teaching Station (Bob White). Vegetation diversity was examined at Cut-Off Creek Wildlife Management Area (Cutoff), a naturally forested wetland, and Bob White, an area formally converted to cropland that is now undergoing forest wetland restoration. Vegetation diversity is one way to determine if restoration efforts are effectively restoring ecosystem structure and functions to natural wetland conditions. Vegetation diversity and composition were examined across three topographical features: hummocks/ridges, swales, and flats. Vegetation diversity was examined in the spring, summer, and fall. Indices were used for determining composition similarities between Bob White and Cutoff. Bob White had a species richness of 33 and Cutoff’s species richness was 47. Beta diversity between the two sites was 76 species, this value is high and suggests there is low similarity between the two sites. Sorensen-Dice Similarity Index value was calculated as 0.05, where on a scale of zero to one a low value indicates low similarity in composition. The low similarity between the two sites suggests that vegetation composition at Bob White has not been fully restored to conditions comparable to a natural setting. An explanation for this is the presence of Baccharis halimifolia (Eastern baccharis). B. halimifolia inhibits other species from colonizing. Another factor for the difference between the vegetation at Bob White and Cutoff is that Cutoff is an older forest. Hydrophyte communities in a forested wetland take 50 years after restoration begins for them to resemble a natural forested wetland. The results from this study provide mixed evidence that restoration at Bob White is succeeding; there is a high percentage of wetlands species, while vegetation lacks similarity. This study improves our understanding of the influence that anthropogenic changes have on wetland functions as agricultural lands are restored to their previous land cover. Ecosystem functions should continue to be monitored to determine time frames as these functions are restored to Bob White
Sheldon, C. J.; Ficklin, R. L.; Fawley, K. P.; Fawley, M. W.; Bataineh, M.; Nelson, A. S.; and Wilson, S.
"Vegetation Diversity in Natural and Restored Forested Wetland Sites in Southeast Arkansas,"
Journal of the Arkansas Academy of Science: Vol. 70
, Article 37.
Available at: http://scholarworks.uark.edu/jaas/vol70/iss1/37