Managing Beaudry Provincial Park's riverbottom forest, research, restoration and maintenance strategies
Beaudry Provincial Park, in southern Manitoba, features tall grass prairie, oak savannah and riverbottom forest communities. The Assiniboine River has carved three peninsulas which form the core of the hardwood forest and its associated shrub and herbaceous community. The forest was historically impacted by logging, farming and cottaging. Since the park's establishment Dutch elm disease, deer browse, flood control and sub-urban encroachment have had an increasing influence. Future impacts may come from invasive plants, predatory insects as well as the warming and drying conditions associated with climate change. The riverbottom forest community was extensively sampled in 1975 and 1977. This practicum's comparison in 1999 suggests that the proportion of flood and shade-adapted plants is decreasing. Specialized plants that were linked to the flood cycle are being replaced by generalists species with a resistance to deer browse. Older shade and flood tolerant trees are not being effectively replaced by their off-spring. Forest clearings remain open long after logging. If, as is common in park management, 'nature' is left to take its course then this forest will increasingly lose its distinctiveness and diversity. Alternately, a more active intervention in forest management may maintain some of the diversity. n experimental restoration programme is recommended. The value of such an approach can extend beyond this forest to provide a learning and demonstration site for prairie riverbottom forest restoration approaches generally. Public access to and involvement with this forest can lead to improved understanding of and support for targeted restoration and management initiatives.