SREL Reprint #2501




Population biology and management of rare plants in depression wetlands of the southeastern coastal plain, USA

Adrienne L. Edwards1 and Alan S. Weakley2

1Southeastern Environmental Research Center, OE 148, University Park, Florida International University,
Miami, FL 33199 USA
2Association for Biodiversity Information/The Nature Conservancy, Southern Resource Office,
6114 Fayetteville Road, Suite 109, Durham, NC 27713 USA

Abstract: One of the greatest challenges for conservation biologists is how to minimize biodiversity losses in the face of staggering habitat destruction. In the southeastern United States, a majority of the depression wetlands (Carolina bays, limesinks, and other landscape depressions) have been altered or destroyed. These wetlands harbor a large proportion of the region's rare species. Surprisingly, there is no single resource from which the patterns of rarity, life history characteristics, and vegetation alliances for species can be obtained. We extracted information from natural heritage program lists, floristic manuals, and primary literature to synthesize information on rare plants in isolated, seasonally ponded depression wetlands in the southeastern coastal plain. Out of 197 species of concern listed in six states, 69 were threatened to varying degrees, occurring in a few to approximately 100 populations (GI-G3G4 species), and 128 were relatively secure with 100 or more populations but were rare in a portion of their geographical ranges. Rare species in depression wetlands were predominately perennial and clonal (120 species), which reflects the prevalence of that life form throughout southeastern wetlands. The perennial and clonal growth form can influence population demographic and genetic structure, and should influence the management of rare plants in depression wetlands. To preserve rare species, it is important to know where they occur and what aspects of their habitats and biology most limit their persistence.

Index terms: Carolina bays, depression wetlands, isolated seasonally ponded wetlands, limesinks, rare plants

SREL Reprint #2501

Edwards, A. L., and A. S. Weakley. 2001. Population biology and management of rare plants in depression wetlands of the southeastern coastal plain, USA. Natural Areas Journal 21:12-35.

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