Floodplain Morphology, Floodplain Inundation, and Riparian Ecology in the Context of the Changing Hydrology of Rivers in Illinois

The area along a river which receives water from the river during high rainfall events (called a floodplain) has special forest characteristics different from forests not directly connected with a river. The nature of trees in these ‘riparian forests’ is influenced by how often and how much water gets accumulated. Different areas of a floodplain will get different levels and durations of water accumulations, depending upon their closeness to the river and height with respect to the river. Low areas close to the river will be flooded more often than areas which are farther from the river and higher up. This idea was the basis for the research, which utilized field measurements of tree characteristics (diameter at breast height, tree species, canopy area) to test whether tree characteristics vary with the frequency and duration of water accumulation. We found that while some forest characteristics like canopy area and tree species diversity did vary across the floodplain, tree density did not show any significant variation. Further analysis is being conducted to statistically test the significance of these results and check for any spatial clustering in tree distribution.

  • PI: Bruce Rhoads
  • PI Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • September 1, 2021 – February 28, 2023