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Peer-Review Record

Conservation–Protection of Forests for Wildlife in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley

Forests 2020, 11(1), 75; https://doi.org/10.3390/f11010075
Reviewer 1: Anonymous
Reviewer 2: Anonymous
Forests 2020, 11(1), 75; https://doi.org/10.3390/f11010075
Received: 2 December 2019 / Revised: 19 December 2019 / Accepted: 23 December 2019 / Published: 8 January 2020

Round 1

Reviewer 1 Report

Dear authors,

I appreciate the opportunity to review your article, which presents a significant issue of forest conservation for biodiversity. The article is informative and well structure, and it will be of interest to the journal readers. However, I suggest some minor revision to enable it more readable and easier understanding. 

Introduction part : As your article title is "forest protection criteria", I had expected a complete review of the current existing forest protection criteria, and point out what are the shortage of this current system. In this part, you mentioned "core forest" here without any explanation, although you have this at the method part. However, could you please add a brief definition here?  

Result part: You give a detailed description of the forest areas should be protected. However, the article is about the "criteria." Could you please add your new findings related to your topic in this part.

Conclusion part: it looks more like a repetition of your discussion part. Could you please add your research limitations, how can you connect your findings to a broader range of international readers? 

Finally, I am wondering how you can implement your new protection plan as you suggest to largely extend conservation areas and to protect more arable lands which less suffers from flooding.  

There are some small changes needed to make.1) please add your map source to Figure 1.2) Line 88-100. Using a table for tree species list may look better than a long paragraph.

Author Response

I appreciate the opportunity to review your article, which presents a significant issue of forest conservation for biodiversity. The article is informative and well structured, and it will be of interest to the journal readers. However, I suggest some minor revision to enable it more readable and easier understanding.

Introduction: As your article title is "forest protection criteria", I had expected a complete review of the current existing forest protection criteria, and point out what are the shortage of this current system.

The manuscript has been re-titled to better reflect its content.

 In this part, you mentioned "core forest" here without any explanation, although you have this at the method part. However, could you please add a brief definition here? 

Section has been revised to parenthetically define ‘core forest’.

Results: You give a detailed description of the forest areas should be protected. However, the article is about the "criteria." Could you please add your new findings related to your topic in this part.

The paper was re-titled with the word ‘criteria’ removed. This was a poor word choice to convey our intent and our findings.

Conclusion: it looks more like a repetition of your discussion part. Could you please add your research limitations, how can you connect your findings to a broader range of international readers?

Research limitations were presented within the DISCUSSION section.  We believe it inadvisable to reiterate these limitations within the CONCLUSIONS section. However, we have revised and added to our CONCLUSIONS section.

Finally, I am wondering how you can implement your new protection plan as you suggest to largely extend conservation areas and to protect more arable lands which less suffers from flooding. 

We have added text to the end of the CONCLUSIONS section that addresses this question.

There are some small changes needed to make.1) please add your map source to Figure 1.2)

It is not clear if reviewer is referring to Figure 1 or Figure 2?  Even so, the source data for figure 1 are indicated in caption via reference to citations [3] and [6]. We have added a statement to Figure 2 caption to indicate that information for the source data are provided in text section 2.2.

Line 88-100. Using a table for tree species list may look better than a long paragraph.

We have reduced the number of tree species listed and added cited literature for other species identification.

Reviewer 2 Report

Thank you very much for this article. The article presents interesting insights into forest protection in Mississippi Alluvial Valley. I have to admit when I read the title and abstract I expected different content of the article. I got confused by the abstract that if I understand it right claims that the aim of the article is to identify protected forest patches and patches that need to be conserved in the future. The article presents interesting data but these data are not logically presented in my opinion. The title speaks about forest protection criteria. Which are they? This is not so clear. Are this the criteria mentioned in methodology?

I am not sure if I understood it right, but the aim was to design new forest patch distribution in order to show what forest land in the study area needs more conservation? Is this correct? Who is the addressee of your research?

Abstract

Is clearly written but in the info presented in the abstract is difficult to follow from the text.

Introduction

The introduction should outline the problem. Not clear is, why this subject is worth investigation? What is the problem statement? Conservation is important for birds’ habitats; this is a well-known fact. Deforestation and land-use change presents a problem for forest conservation, we also know this – it is subject to many studies. Is this the problem of the Mississippi Valley? Or is this an overall problem in the US? It should be clearly written in the introduction why this is important to investigate and what is “new” to the model that authors are presenting here.

There are many issues that the authors try to tackle. This is confusing for the reader. In the introduction is no information about the relation of forest conservation and flood reduction, but this is further investigated in the text.

The aim of the article is not clear. The research questions are not clear.

Material and Methods

This section is too long and is not linked to the introduction and aim. Chapter 2.2 could be easily presented in one table. There are three similar maps with different info. Is it not possible to make one map?

Results

The main result is that over 2 million hectares of forest need conservation. What is the main result? That the current policy is not working or are you presenting a new model for identifying forest land that needs to be protected? It is not clear what is the main result and message you are trying to present to the readers.

Conclusions

Here you talk about flooding, but this is not linked to the results or it is not evident.

Overall the article presents interesting data but it is very difficult to extract what is the main message. Therefore I recommend to reconsider to publish this article after major revision.

Author Response

Thank you very much for this article. The article presents interesting insights into forest protection in Mississippi Alluvial Valley. I have to admit when I read the title and abstract I expected different content of the article. I got confused by the abstract that if I understand it right claims that the aim of the article is to identify protected forest patches and patches that need to be conserved in the future. The article presents interesting data but these data are not logically presented in my opinion. The title speaks about forest protection criteria. Which are they? This is not so clear. Are this the criteria mentioned in methodology?

We have retitled the paper to better depict its content. Additionally, we have revised the ABSTRACT for improved clarity and continuity.

I am not sure if I understood it right, but the aim was to design new forest patch distribution in order to show what forest land in the study area needs more conservation? Is this correct?

Yes, in addition to quantifying existing forest protection, the aim of this study was to identify those forest areas in need of conservation protection and to objectively determine which areas have greatest need for protection.

Who is the addressee of your research?

The intended audience (i.e., those with the ability and intent to offer conservation protection for forests) includes private and public land conservation entities (e.g., state and federal agencies and private organizations such as The Nature Conservancy and Ducks Unlimited).

Abstract: Is clearly written but in the info presented in the abstract is difficult to follow from the text.

Abstract has been revised.

Introduction:

The introduction should outline the problem. Not clear is, why this subject is worth investigation? What is the problem statement? Conservation is important for birds’ habitats; this is a well-known fact. Deforestation and land-use change presents a problem for forest conservation, we also know this – it is subject to many studies. Is this the problem of the Mississippi Valley? Or is this an overall problem in the US? It should be clearly written in the introduction why this is important to investigate and what is “new” to the model that authors are presenting here.

We believe the issues of concern have been encapsulated and are succinctly presented in the first few sentences of the introduction.  Even so, we have added wording that more closely links hydrologic concerns to forest protection.

There are many issues that the authors try to tackle. This is confusing for the reader. In the introduction is no information about the relation of forest conservation and flood reduction, but this is further investigated in the text.

At the onset of this study, our knowledge of the effects of flooding was that less flood-prone areas were more subject to conversion for agricultural use.  We did not know the relationship between protected forest lands and flood status.  Thus, including more specific information regarding this relationship within the INTRODUCTION would not be appropriate.  We briefly introduce the influence of flood control in the opening paragraph within the INTRODUCTION, and further elaborate on this relationship in the last paragraph of this section.

The aim of the article is not clear. The research questions are not clear.

We have rewritten the opening of paragraph 3 within the INTRODUCTION to better state the aims and objectives of our study.

Material and Methods:

This section is too long and is not linked to the introduction and aim.

To allow readers the ability to reproduce our findings, we believe the information contained within this section is important.

Chapter 2.2 could be easily presented in one table.

Although we agree that this section is lengthy, it is not clear that converting this information to a table format would save any space.  Indeed, placement within a table would likely increase space required for the printed document. As such we have reduced the wording within section 2.2 to be more concise.

There are three similar maps with different info. Is it not possible to make one map?

The maps are of the same area but depict different information.  As such, we have retained the figures in their original format.

Results:

The main result is that over 2 million hectares of forest need conservation. What is the main result? That the current policy is not working or are you presenting a new model for identifying forest land that needs to be protected? It is not clear what is the main result and message you are trying to present to the readers.

While ~2 million ha are in the forest patches deemed in need of forest protection, only ~1.3 million ha currently lack conservation-protection.  We have revised the 2nd paragraph of the RESULTS section to better indicate these findings.

Conclusions:

Here you talk about flooding, but this is not linked to the results or it is not evident.

The last half of the introductory paragraph within the RESULTS section states or findings regarding flood frequency and forest status in this ecoregion.

Overall the article presents interesting data but it is very difficult to extract what is the main message. Therefore, I recommend reconsidering publication of this article after major revision.

Revisions have been undertaken and are presented within our revised manuscript.

Round 2

Reviewer 2 Report

Thank you very much for improving the manuscript. All my comments have been sufficiently answered. I have no other comments and I recommend the manuscript for publishing.

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