Woodlands are an interdependent system consisting mostly of trees but also contain plants, shrubs, animals and microorganisms. A woodland can vary greatly based on aspect, climate, elevation, location, moisture, soil content and so much more. Iowa's woodlands, much like most across North America, are classified as temperate deciduous forests. This means that our state's woodlands are mostly composed of leafy, hardwood trees. While we have many coniferous trees such as the Eastern Red Cedar and the Eastern White Pine, they are scattered among strands of what still are and use to be temperate deciduous forest.
Within this large system are small vertical systems known as:
- The Basement (underground)
- Floor (ground level)
- Canopy (leaves and branches above)
- Under-story (plant life growing on the floor)
The topography provided by the Iowa River Greenbelt gives way to many old growth woodlands throughout our entire county. Prime examples of Hardin County woodlands can be found at Anders Wildlife Area, Pine Ridge Park, and Ruby Woodland.
What Woodlands do for us and Wildlife:
Water & Air Quality
Forests have the capability to filter both air and water. Carbon sequestration is when carbon is stored within the biomass of both living and dead things. Trees are particularly good at storing carbon dioxide. Similarly woodlands store large amounts of water due to tree processes. As trees absorb water they also filter the water of chemical and nutrients. Before settlement, Iowa was estimated to have somewhere between 5 and 6 million acres of forest. Today, our state is estimated to have about 2.9 million acres, or half of what was originally here. Our quality of forests have truly declined in species variation due to human impact and selection.
Woodlands are habitat for many game species including large groups of White Tail Deer and the Eastern Wild Turkey. Deer and turkey both feed on acorn production from our state's native oak trees. Song birds also thrive in forests where they can find nests and cavities in trees to produce young. Wood peckers for example create a cavity within a tree branch, and feed on insects beneath the outer bark surface. Many insects and reptiles also thrive off on the forest floor, like the native Timber Rattlesnake who camouflages itself in the leafy forest floor, waiting for prey to cross by.
Along with quality and habitat provided by woodlands, they also give the public opportunity to recreate. Hunting is one of the most popular. Iowa has abundant populations of white tail deer, wild turkey, grey squirrels and cotton-tailed rabbits, which all make excellent game. Along with hunting, fishing is a recreational opportunity indirectly effected by woodlands. Because of their water filtering qualities, as well as shading and structural habitat, trees do their part in creating excellent fishing opportunity in our state, especially along Hardin County's winding stretch of the Iowa River.
Hiking and camping are both significant opportunities that the public can take advantage of in Hardin County. The conservation board takes pride in providing ample hiking trails and public natural areas for general use. Designated camping locations can also be found under Hardin County's page on My County Parks.