The nearly ubiquitous bottomland hardwood forests that historically dominated the Mississippi Alluvial Valley have been greatly reduced in area. In addition, changes in hydrology and forest management have altered the structure and composition of the remaining forests. To ameliorate the detrimental impact of these changes on silvicolous wildlife, conservation plans have emphasized restoration and reforestation to increase the area of interior (core) forest habitat, while presuming negligible loss of extant forest in this ecoregion. We assessed the conservation–protection status of land within the Mississippi Alluvial Valley because without protection, existing forests are subject to conversion to other uses. We found that only 10% of total land area was currently protected, although 28% of extant forest was in the current conservation estate. For forest patches, we prioritized their need for additional conservation–protection based on benefits to forest bird conservation afforded by forest patch area, geographic location, and hydrologic condition. Based on these criteria, we found that 4712 forest patches warranted conservation–protection, but only 109 of these forest patches met our desired conservation threshold of >2000 ha of core forest that was >250 m from an edge. Overall, 35% of the area of forest patches warranting conservation–protection was protected within the conservation estate. Even so, for those forest patches identified as most in need of conservation–protection, less than 10% of their area was currently protected. The conservation–protection priorities described fill an unmet need for land trusts and other conservation partners pursuing strategic forest protection in support of established bird conservation objectives.
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