St. Anne Woods & Wetlands

dotLowland Woods and Wetlands

The St. Anne Woods and Wetlands Research and Education Center is situated along the western border of Melbourne, Kentucky. The lowland portion of the site 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 property into north and south sections.

Permission is required to enter the fenced north section. The 14.8-hectare area holds forest and meadow wetlands, in addition to an Ohio River floodplain forest typical of the region’s stream bottomlands (Hedeen 2006). The floodplain forest is comprised of trees that can tolerate frequent flooding, saturated soil, and reduced soil aeration, e.g., silver maple (Acer saccharinum), cottonwood (Populus deltoides), sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), American elm (Ulmus americana), and black willow (Salix nigra). A population of beaver (Castor canadensis) inhabits burrows in the riverbank, as reflected by gnaw marks on many of the floodplain trees. The ponds in this area were restored in September 2012; photos of the restoration can be seen here.

The unfenced, 21.7-hectare south section supports a forested wetland as well as a tree-planted meadow slope bordering Kentucky Route 8. A signed nature trail loop through the south section is accessed from a parking area along Anderson Lane. The trail is open to the public during daylight hours (foot traffic only).

The forested wetlands in both the north and south sections occupy poorly drained depressions on a broad terrace elevated 10.7 m above the normal level of the Ohio River. The depressions are water-filled during wet seasons and following exceptionally high Ohio River floods. Braun (1916) found the site’s forested depressions to be occupied by trees of different ages and sizes ranging from “several inches to a few feet in diameter, some of the pin oaks being exceptionally large.”

In 1981, Bryant (1987) sampled trees of at least 10 cm diameter-at-breast-height in 0.07-hectare circular plots randomly spaced throughout the wetland forest of the south section. Of 416 trees recorded, pin oak (Quercus palustris) was the dominant species, followed by red maple (Acer rubrum), ash (Fraxinus americana and F. pennsylvanica), elm (Ulmus americana and U. rubra), tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), boxelder (Acer negundo), black cherry (Prunus serotina), hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia), sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor), sassafras (Sassafras albidum), beech (Fagus grandifolia), honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos), and hickory (Carya sp.).

Bryant and Held (2004) classified the site as an old-growth Pin Oak-Red Maple forest. They identified Pin Oak-Red Maple and floodplain forests as the two wettest of the eight woodland types occurring in the Northern Kentucky/Southwest Ohio region. Bryant (unpublished data) re-sampled the Pin Oak-Red Maple forest of the south section in 2007. Of 295 trees recorded, pin oak remained dominant, followed by red maple, ash, elm, boxelder, cottonwood, tulip poplar, silver maple, black cherry, hackberry, sycamore, black locust, beech, and Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii). The tree density per hectare fell from 396 in 1981 to 331 in 2007, perhaps due to post-1981 logging activity.

In this same area, Boyce (2012) sampled in a mature stand and a developing forest. Densities ranged from 267 to 817 trees per hectare. Basal area ranged from 38 to 42 square meters per hectare. Tree species found included boxelder, paw-paw, shagbark hickory (Carya ovata), hackberry, flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) beech, ash, tulip poplar, black cherry, pin oak, sassafras, and elm. The analysis indicated that the beech population was slowly declining, tulip poplar was not longer replacing itself, and hackberry appeared to be maintaining a stable population level. 

Amphibians constitute the vertebrate class best adapted to seasonal wetland environments. Krusling and Ferner (1993) collected six species from St. Anne Woods and Wetlands: green frog (Rana clamitans), spring peeper (Pseudacris crucifer), American toad (Bufo americanus), ravine salamander (Plethodon richmondi), Jefferson’s salamander (Ambystoma jeffersonianum), and streamside salamander (Ambystoma barbouri). Krusling and Ferner concluded that the diverse amphibian community of the site places St. Anne Wetlands among the high priority preservation sites in Northern Kentucky. However, Boyce et al. (2012) found that the invasive shrub Amur honeysuckle is increasing stand transpiration by an amount equivalent to 10% of the stream flow from the area, which may be shortening the period of the seasonal ponds in which these species breed.

Dr. Maggie Whitson, Curator of the NKU Herbarium, has compiled a checklist of the plant species that have been found in the wetland areas.

Literature Cited

Boyce, R.L. 2012. Size structure of Fagus grandifolia, Liriodendron tulipifera, and Celtis occidentalis populations in a wetland forest in Campbell County, Kentucky. Journal of the Kentucky Academy of Sciences 73:83-89.

Boyce, R.L., R.D. Durtsche and S.L Fugal. 2012. Impact of the invasive shrub Lonicera maackii on stand
transpiration and ecosystem hydrology in a wetland forest. Biological Invasions 14:671-680.

Braun, E.L. 1916. The physiographic ecology of the Cincinnati region. Ohio Biological Survey Bulletin 7.

Bryant, W.S. 1987. Structure and composition of the old-growth forests of Hamilton County, Ohio and environs. In Proceedings of the Central Hardwood Forest Conference VI. Pages 317-324.

Bryant, W.S. and M.E. Held. 2004. Forest vegetation in Hamilton County, Ohio: a cluster analysis and ordination study. In Proceedings of the 14th Central Hardwood Forest Conference. Pages 312-321.

Hedeen, S. 2006. Natural history of the Cincinnati region. Cincinnati Museum Center Scientific Contribution Number 1.

Krusling, P.J. and J.W. Ferner. 1993. Distribution and status of amphibians in the northern tier counties of Kentucky. Environmental Research and Development Fund, The Cincinnati Gas and Electric Company.