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Title: Recent afforestation in the Iowa River and Vorskla River Basins: A comparative trends analysis

item CHENDEV, YURY - Belgorod State University
item HUBBART, JASON - University Of Missouri
item TEREKHIN, EDGAR - Belgorod State University
item LUPO, ANTHONY - University Of Missouri
item Sauer, Thomas
item BURRAS, LEE - Iowa State University

Submitted to: Forests
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/5/2016
Publication Date: 11/15/2016
Citation: Chendev, Y.G., Hubbart, J.A., Terekhin, E.A., Lupo, A.R., Sauer, T.J., Burras, L.C. 2016. Recent afforestation in the Iowa River and Vorskla River Basins: A comparative trends analysis. Forests. 7(11):278. doi: 10.3390/f7110278.

Interpretive Summary: Land use has a large impact on soil properties. When land use changes, important processes like nutrient cycling, carbon storage, and evaporation also change. The objective of this study was to quantify the changes in land cover over 41 years for an area with cropland, pasture, and forest. This watershed was located in the Iowa River watershed near Iowa City. High resolution air photos from 1972 to 2013 were used to assess the change in forest cover over time. The rate of forest expansion was due to tree planting, natural forest regeneration, and forest edge advancement. The average rate of forest edge expansion was found to be 7 meters per decade. It was estimated that, following the current trends, the entire area will be forested in approximately 150 years. The results of this study are of interest to scientists, land managers, and policymakers interested in predicting land use change and the implications for climate change.

Technical Abstract: Temporal changes in forest cover were analyzed using high resolution aerial photographs for Southeast Iowa, USA – a section of the Iowa River basin north of Iowa City. An increase in overall forested area was shown over a 41-year period (1972-2013). The anthropogenic and natural reasons for this process are examined. The rate of forest expansion into open meadow-steppe areas, previously used as haying lands and pastures, was calculated. A predicted time of complete forest cover, based on current trends, was estimated for the study area. Three mechanisms for the observed increase in forested area include: 1) tree planting, 2) natural regeneration, and 3) forest edge advancement. The average rate of forest regeneration was 7 meters per decade. Given the dense drainage network, the mean distance between ravine bottoms of about 110 meters, and current rate of advancement, a uniform forest block would be observed in approximately 150 years. Notably this time may be advanced due to the current distribution of forests not only within low lying areas, but also on slopes and summits in local topography, and also in response to a warming climate.