Date of Award

12-2009

Degree Name

Master of Science

Department

Geography and Environmental Resources

First Advisor

Therrell, Matthew

Abstract

Bottomland hardwood forests present a unique opportunity to examine the ecological response to hydrologically altered river and floodplain systems. These ecosystems, under natural conditions, are floodplain forests directly linked to the river. However, with major alterations to the river-floodplain system, bottomland hardwood forests can now provide insight into the loss of river connectivity and history of the flood pulse. This study reviewed the age distribution and growth of Quercus lyrata Walt. and the anatomical response of Quercus spp. to high magnitude floods in the 19th and 20th century in an old-growth Mississippi River floodplain forest in southeastern Missouri. Tree-ring samples collected from 43 trees at Big Oak Tree State Park contain physiological signatures (`flood rings') associated with growing season floods in the 20th century, and similar signatures are present in years corresponding to historical floods of the 19th century. The duration of 20th century Mississippi River growing season floods were examined to compare the occurrence of flood rings and the duration and intensity of floods on the Mississippi River at New Madrid, Missouri. Patterns in the occurrence of flood rings are developed as a response to alterations to the Mississippi River, river floodplain, and park hydrologic system.

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