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Ecology of Tidal Freshwater Forested Wetlands of the Southeastern United States




The natural ecosystems of coastal Louisiana reflect the underlying geomorphic processes responsible for their formation. The majority of Louisiana's wetland forests are found in the lower reaches of the Mississipp Alluvial Valley and the Deltaic Plain. The sediments, water, and energy of the Mississippi River have shaped the Deltaic Plain as natural deltas have been formed and abandoned over the last 5,000 years (Coleman et al. 1998). During the regressive or constructional phase of the delta cycle, the system is dominated by freshwater riverine inputs with the formation of corresponding freshwater marshes and swamps, which then deteriorate during the marine-dominated transgressive phase (Roberts 1997). These processes have resulted in the current coastal landscape of bottomland hardwood forests on the remnant natural levees of the distributary channels with swamps dominated by baldcypress (Taxodium distichum (L.) L.C. Rich.), pondcypress (Taxodium ascendens Brongn.) and water tupelo (Nyssa aquatica L.) occupying lower elevations (Penfound 1952; Mitsch and Gosselink 2003).


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