Baldcypress-water tupelo (cypress-tupelo) swamps are critically important coastal forested wetlands found throughout the southeastern U.S. The long-term survival and sustainability of these swamp forests is unknown due to large-scale changes in hydrologic regimes that prevent natural regeneration following logging or mortality. We used NWI wetland maps and remotely sensed hydrologic data to map cypress-tupelo communities, surface water, and the extent and location of proposed regeneration condition classes for cypress-tupelo swamps in the Atchafalaya Basin, LA. Only 6,175 ha (5.8%) of the 106,227 ha of cypress-tupelo forest in the Lower Atchafalaya Basin Floodway was classified as capable of naturally regenerating. Over 23% (24,525 ha) of the forest area was mapped as unable to regenerate either naturally or artificially. The loss and conversion of nearly 25,000 ha of cypress-tupelo forest would have significant and long-lasting impacts on ecosystem services such as wildlife habitat for birds and Louisiana black bears. Given the landscape-scale changes in surface elevations and flooding depths and durations throughout southern Louisiana, similar conditions and impacts are likely applicable to all coastal cypress-tupelo forests in Louisiana. Better data on flooding during the growing season are needed to more accurately identify and refine the location and spatial extent of the regeneration condition classes.
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Vol. 29 • No. 3