Achieving restoration success: myths in bottomland hardwood forests
Restoration of bottomland hardwood forests is the subject of considerable interest in the Southern United States, but restoration success is elusive. Techniques for establishing bottomland tree species are well developed, yet problems have occurred in operational programs. Current plans for restoration on public and private land suggest that as many as 200,000 ha could be restored in the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley alone. The ideal of ecological restoration is to reestablish a completely functioning ecosystem. Although some argue that afforestation is incomplete restoration, it is a necessary and costly first step but not an easy task. The 1992 Wetlands Reserve Program in Mississippi, which failed on 90 percent of the area, illustrates the difficulty of broadly applying our knowledge of afforestation. In our view, the focus for ecological restoration should be to restore functions, rather than specifying some ambiguous natural state based on reference stands or pre-settlement forest conditions. We view restoration as one element in a continuum model of sustainable forest management, allowing us to prescribe restoration goals that incorporate landowner objectives. Enforcing the discipline of explicit objectives, with restoration expectations described in terms of predicted values of functions, causal mechanisms, and temporal response trajectories, will hasten the development of meaningful criteria for restoration success. We present our observations about current efforts to restore bottomland hardwoods as nine myths, or statements of dubious origin, and at best partial truth.