Levees and tree removal-disastrous effects

A research article I wrote with Dirk Van Vuren and John Draper was just published in the Journal of Wildlife Management. The paper is relevant to both wildlife management and human safety nationwide in areas at risk to floods. The study examined whether removing trees and shrubs from levees would influence burrowing mammal presence and density on levees, species considered to be threats to levee structural integrity (create holes in levees). Army Corp and FEMA plan to remove all trees from all levees of the United States. One of their main arguments for removing trees is that they argue that conversion to grassland habitat would discourage burrowing mammals from occupying levees and aid in the management of these pest species. Our results actually suggest that converting riparian levee habitat to grassland may actually attract burrowing pests to levees, further compromising the structural integrity of levees. This is a highly controversial topic right now as many organizations and agencies are strongly opposing Army Corp's plans to devegetate all levees of the United States. The main reason for the opposition by these organizations is that increasingly rare riparian habitat is critically valuable to a large amount of species. 

Beyond habitat destruction, the consequences of tree removed and increased burrowing mammal populations leads to yet other problems.  Once burrowing mammals move into a levee area, anticoagulant rat poisons are used to try to control the rodent populations.  Thus, beyond tree removal and habitat destruction, we additionally enter toxic chemicals into the ecoystems to further try to control those small mammal populations.  Those toxic chemicals move up the food web, and we exposed the predators that consume the burrowing mammals too.