Bottomland hardwood forest has been greatly diminished by conversion to agriculture. Less than 25% of the pre-Columbian bottomland hardwood forests remain in the southeastern United States. Because of the valuable ecological and hydrological functions performed by these forests, their conservation and restoration has been a high priority. Part of these restoration efforts has focused on developing tools that can be used for both assessments at the landscape level and policy implementation at the local level. The distribution of bottomland hardwood forests in the Cache and White River watersheds in eastern Arkansas were examined using existing GIS databases. Criteria were developed to select areas that should be conserved or augmented for wildlife habitat. Over 67% of the study area was classified as agriculture, with bottomland hardwood forest the next largest habitat class. The thickness of a forest fragment was defined as the radius of the largest circle that can be inscribed in a fragment. Thickness was used in three ways. First, individual forest fragments were identified and selected based on ecological function using criteria we established. Second, individual fragments that were too small to support interior species, but large enough that if moderately augmented they could recover that function, were identified and selected. These augmentable fragments were further prioritized by adjacency to habitat that might be suitable for reforestation, namely agriculture. Third, watersheds were prioritized for conservation and augmentation based on the size and distributions of forest fragment thickness and area within each watershed.
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