Outer Bluegrass Ecoregion
The St. Anne Woods and Wetlands Research and Education Center is located in the Outer Bluegrass Ecoregion, a portion of Northern Kentucky that was covered by a continental glacier during the early Pleistocene Epoch. In the approximately one million years since the retreat of that ice sheet, erosion has produced a landscape of streamside lowlands separating moderately dissected uplands.
Pioneers found the lowlands and uplands of the ecoregion to be completely covered by deciduous trees. Tree species that grow in wet and moist soils occupied the lowlands while the upland woods primarily consisted of mixed mesophytic forests. “Mesophytic” describes soil conditions midway between the extremes of wet (or hydrophytic) and arid (or xerophytic). Mixed mesophytic forests occupy a position between moister mesophytic forests, often dominated by beech and sugar maples, and drier mesophytic forests, typically dominated by oaks and hickories. As would be expected in an intermediate community, canopy dominance in a mixed mesophytic forest is shared by a mixture of tree species, not just one or two.
Upland Woods at St. Anne
The upland portion of the St. Anne property supports a mixed mesophytic forest, the type of woodland that covered most of pre-settlement Northern Kentucky. The forest holds a variety of fungi, herbs, shrubs, and trees, as well as a diversity of mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian, and invertebrate animal species. A portion of the forest stand encircles an abandoned farm field supporting meadow organisms.
Lowland Woods and Wetlands at St. Anne
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The lowland portion of the St. Anne
property is dominated by forest stands of various types and
ages. The lowland is bounded by the Ohio River on the north
and Kentucky Route 8 on the south. The earthen fill of an
east-west railroad right-of-way divides the lowland into
north and south sections.
The north section holds a floodplain forest along the river as well as an abandoned farm field with shallow ponds. The floodplain forest is comprised of trees that can tolerate frequent flooding and reduced soil aeration, e.g., silver maple, cottonwood, sycamore, and black willow. A population of beaver inhabits burrows in the riverbank, as reflected by gnaw marks on many of the floodplain trees.
Both the north and south sections of the lowland contain poorly-drained depressions separated by slight ridges. The depressions are water-filled during wet seasons and following Ohio River floods. Pin oak and red maple dominate the depression woods. Trees adapted to less-saturated soils appear on the slight ridges separating the depressions, e.g., beech, tulip poplar, sassafras, and box elder. Shrubs, herbs, fungi, invertebrates, and vertebrates, especially amphibians, inhabit the lowland forests.
A nature trail through the south section of the lowland is accessed from a parking area along Anderson Lane. The signed trail is open to the public during daylight hours. The fenced north section of the lowland is closed to the public but available to research and education groups.