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In Michigan, flooding typically occurs in the spring and fall during long periods of precipitation and shortly after snowmelt. Flood waters move sediment and other debris downstream, cause bank erosion and influence vegetation composition within the floodplain. Trees and plants must be adapted to wet, low oxygen conditions for survival. Standing water in the spring and fall prevents shade tolerant woody plants, such as sugar maple, from establishing in the understory.
Prolonged flooding can kill woody plants and turn a healthy stand of trees into standing snags providing shelter for cavity nesting birds, great blue heron rookeries, and climbing mammals such as raccoon, opossum and porcupine. Standing snags also provide foraging habitat for insectivores such as woodpeckers. Flooding in the spring can create vernal pools in forests, providing critical breeding habitat for many amphibians. Flooding also provides temporary pools for waterfowl as well as fish such as northern pike that use backwater flooded areas adjacent to river systems for spawning. In addition to seasonal flooding, beaver-induced flooding may also play an important role in maintaining open communities by occasionally raising water levels and killing encroaching trees and shrubs.
For more information, see: Coastal Habitat Plan, Section V (PDF)