Impact of flooding on South Carolina’s trees and forests
Although flooding is detrimental to tree health, a study by the North Carolina Division of Forest Resources (1) found there to be no short-term impacts on healthy mature trees. The size of living trees, numbers of dead trees and incidence of damage were similar between flooded and non-flooded areas.
Newly-planted seedlings, however, can succumb to flooding. A general rule of thumb is that if the tip of the tree remains submerged for more than 5 to 7 days, mortality is likely.
How individual trees fare after catastrophic rain events depends on several factors:
- Species – cypress, gum, and tupelo can withstand and even thrive after flood events. Tulip-poplar is not as adaptable as other hardwood species.
- Tree Age – healthy, mature trees survive floods better than young seedlings or over mature trees.
- Duration of Flooding – high water that quickly recedes will have a much lower impact on trees than flooding that persists for several days.
- Tree Height – trees that are overtopped by flood waters are less likely to survive than those whose leaves stay above the water.
- Frequency of Flood Events – trees growing in areas that frequently flood are better adapted to withstand inundation than those that are not conditioned to flooding.
So, landowners should keep a watch on their well-established trees, but are not likely to see significant impacts to them. Owners of young seedlings that were flooded are advised to contact a forester for advice on recommendations.
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