WRIR 03-4008

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Darst, M.R., Light, H.M., Lewis, L.J., and Sepulveda, A.A., 2003, Forest Types in the Lower Suwannee River Floodplain, FloridaŚ-A Report and Interactive Map: U.S. Geological Survey Water Resources Investigations Report 03-4008, 24 p.


A map of forest types in the lower Suwannee River floodplain, Florida, was created during a study conducted from 1996 to 2000 by the U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with the Suwannee River Water Management District. The map is presented with this report on a compact disc with interactive viewing software. The forest map can be used by scientists for ecological studies in the floodplain based on land cover types and by landowners and management personnel making land use decisions.

The study area is the 10-year floodplain of the lower Suwannee River from its confluence with the Santa Fe River to the lower limit of forests near the Gulf of Mexico. The floodplain is divided into three reaches: riverine (non-tidal), upper tidal, and lower tidal, due to changes in hydrology, vegetation, and soils with proximity to the coast.

The 10-year floodplain covers about 21,170 hectares; nearly 88 percent of this area (18,580 hectares) is mapped as 14 major forest types. Approximately 29 percent (5,319 hectares) of these forests have been altered by agriculture or development. About 75 percent of the area of major forest types (13,994 hectares) is wetland forests and about 25 percent (4,586 hectares) is upland forests. Tidal wetland forests (8,955 hectares) cover a much greater area than riverine wetland forests (5,039 hectares).

Oak/pine upland forests are present in the riverine and upper tidal reaches of the floodplain on elevations that are inundated only briefly during the highest floods. High bottomland hardwoods are present on the higher levees, ridges, and flats of the riverine reach where soils are usually sandy. Low bottomland hardwood forests are present in the riverine reach on swamp margins and low levees and flats that are flooded continuously for several weeks or longer every 1 to 3 years. Riverine swamps are present in the lowest and wettest areas of the non-tidal floodplain that are either inundated or saturated most of the time.

Upper tidal bottomland hardwood forests are present on sandy soils on high flats and in transitional areas between upland forests and swamps. Upper tidal mixed forests are found on low levees or between swamps and higher forest types. Upper tidal swamps are present at elevations below median monthly high stage and usually have surface soils that are permanently saturated mucks.

Lower tidal hammocks are found on higher elevations that do not receive regular tidal inundation but have a high water table and are briefly inundated by storm surges several times a decade. Lower tidal mixed forests include swamps with numerous small hummocks or less common larger hummocks. Lower tidal swamps are found on deep muck soils that are below the elevation of the median daily or monthly high stage.

Seven additional land cover types (2,590 hectares) are mapped. Water in the main channel of the lower Suwannee River (1,767 hectares) was mapped separately from open water in the floodplain (239 hectares). Other land cover types are: seepage slopes (70 hectares), isolated forested wetlands (19 hectares), marshes upstream of the tree line (505 hectares), beds of emergent aquatic vegetation (21 hectares), and floodplain glades (46 hectares).


List of Scientific Names used with Common Name Equivalents

Purpose and Scope
Floodplain Boundaries and River Kilometers
Study Sites
Establishment of Transects
Vegetation Sampling
Verification Plots
Observation Sites
Reach Boundaries
Mapping Aerial Signatures
Map Verification, Completion, and Conversion to Interactive Format
Floodplain Hydrology, Topographic Features, and Soils
Hydrology of the River
Floodplain Topography and Hydrology
Floodplain Soils
Major Forest Types
Oak/pine Uplands
Riverine Wetland Forests
Upper Tidal Wetland Forests
Lower Tidal Wetland Forests
Other Land Cover Types
Uses of the Forest Map