The Wrack

The Wrack is the Wells Reserve blog, our collective logbook on the web.

Silver Maple Forest Floodplain Tour

Posted by | July 16, 2018 | Filed under: Observations


On July 13, 2018, the Saco Watershed Collaborative held its third tour of the season in Fryeburg, Maine. Guided by Justin Schwalin and Nancy Sferra of the Maine Natural Areas Program (MNAP), the Collaborative spent the day learning about the floodplains of the Saco River and the fauna that resides within the silver maple forest.

A group standing at the edge of the floodplain, facing a forest.
Standing at the edge of the floodplain, facing the Saco River beyond the timber line.

With so many wetland types in the silver maple floodplain, there are a number of stewardship challenges. The range in silver maple stops at around the Penobscot Watershed. There are a number of species that are of special concern.  The Hudson river beach tree is one.  It is classified as a S1, or critically imperiled because of its extreme rarity in the state of Maine.  There is also a globally rare bulrush species that is fire adaptive.  Hemlock stands are of special concern as well as they are sensitive to the woolly adelgid.  Hemlock stands provide a cool understory for neotropical migrant bird species.  Usually in this area, hemlocks grow on shady north-facing slopes.  But, it depends on previous forestry management styles.  In the floodplain, silver maples and red oaks are fast growing trees.

Bracken fern, one of the plentiful species of fern in the silver maple forest.

In 1820, Fryeburg farmers along the Saco River noticed that annual flooding was pretty bad.  The farmers decided to divert the flow of the river.  In 1827, a canal was created by way of blasting which left an artificial formation and a 10 mile cut flow cut-off.  The location in the floodplain that we visited was over 100 years old!  Kezar Lake and Cold River flow into this area.  According to Anna Biddle, District Conservation for Oxford County, "This location and the Rumford area has some of the best soils around."  Within the floodplain, there are nine-hundred acres on both sides of the preserve.  Two large pieces of land create the nine-hundred acre area.  Hugh Hastings purchased 600 acres for the purpose of long-term monitoring plots.  There were a number of good sized beech trees.  However, beech bark disease, scale insects and fungus are common.  The second piece of land purchased was a couple hundred acres of forest as well, but it was much more harvested.  Today, the MNAP has an agreement with the snowmobile and hiking clubs to allow people to use the properties for recreation.  

A damselfly resting on tall grass.

There are a number of rare plants and animal species within the floodplain.  Dragonflies, butterflies and moths are just a few of the species.  However, one of the stewardship management problems that they are having within the floodplain is Japanese knotweed.  The floodplains are naturally vulnerable to invasive species.  A potential method of controlling Japanese knotweed is to reach out to private landowners and see if they are interested in helping combat the spreading invasive.  Currently, herbicide is spot-applied to knotweed during September before it blooms.  A few other management problems are the use of ATVs, non-permitted treestands for hunting and the invasive emerald ash borer. 

Brownfield Bog, even though it is classified as a "fen."

The final location of the tour was Brownfield Bog in Brownfield, Maine.  Technically, the bog is classified as a "fen."  The main difference between a bog and fen is that a fen has greater water exchange and is less acidic.  Therefore, the soil and water are richer in nutrients.  Bogs have lower oxygen levels as there is less water exchange which contributes to the slow build up of peat.  The Brownfield Bog is artificially impounded, which changed the course of the Saco River.  Looking at some historical photos, there is noticeable evidence of the old and new path of the Saco River.  

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