SREL Reprint #2237




Flooding and salinity effects on growth and survival of four common forested wetland species


W.H. Conner1, K.W. McLeod2 and J.K. McCarron2

1Baruch Forest Science Institute of Clemson University, Box 596, Georgetown, SC 29442, U.S.A. 2Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, University of Georgia, P.O. Drawer E, Aiken, SC 29802, U.S.A.


Keywords.- sea level rise, salt tolerance, flooding, swamps, coastal forests, seedlings


The survival, growth, and biomass of baldcypress (Taxodium distichum (L.) Rich.), water tupelo (Nyssa aquatica L.), Chinese tallow (Sapium sehiftrum (L.) Roxb.), and green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica Marsh.) seedlings were examined in an experiment varying water levels (watered, flooded) and salinity levels (0, 2, and 10 ppt, plus a simulated storm surge with 32 ppt saltwater). All seedlings, except for those flooded with 10 ppt saltwater, survived to the end of the experiment. In 10 ppt saltwater, flooded baldcypress, water tupelo, and green ash survived two weeks whereas Chinese tallow survived for 6 weeks. However, a second set of slightly older baldcypress, water tupelo, and Chinese tallow seedlings survived eight weeks of flooding with 10 ppt saltwater. When carried through the winter to the beginning of the second growing season, flooded baldcypress and Chinese tallow seedlings from the 0 and 2 ppt treatments leafed out, but only Chinese tallow recovered from the saltwater surge treatment. The diameter and growth (height) of each species was not affected when watered with 2 ppt saltwater, except for the effects of the height growth of baldcypress. Growth was reduced for all species when watered with 10 ppt saltwater. The diameter growth of green ash was reduced by freshwater flooding. The diameter growth of baldcypress and water tupelo was greater when flooded with fresh water. Flooding with 2 ppt saltwater caused a significant reduction in diameter growth in water tupelo, green ash, and Chinese tallow, but not in baldcypress. Root and stem biomass values were not significantly different for any species between the 0 and 2 ppt salinity watering treatments. However, seedlings watered with 10 ppt saltwater had significantly lower root and stem biomass values, except for baldcypress roots and green ash stems. Baldcypress was least affected by flooding with 0 and 2 ppt saltwater, although there were slight reductions in root biomass with increasing salinity. Because of the susceptibility of the seedlings of these four species to increases in flooding and salinity, their regeneration may be limited in the future, thereby causing shifts in species composition.

SREL Reprint # 2237

Conner, W.H., K.W. McLeod, and J.K. McCarron. 1997. Flooding and salinity effects on growth and survival of four common forested wetland species. Wetlands Ecology and Management 5:99-109.

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