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Demographic Analysis of a Disjunct Population of Froelichia floridana in the mid-Ohio River Valley


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Froelichia floridana (cottonweed) occurs as a disjunct population along the Ohio River in southeastern Ohio. The anomalous occurrence of F. floridana in this area has led to its designation as a state endangered species and a management regime to maintain the habitat conditions in which it occurs. As part of this effort, a restoration site was established on public lands in 1984 from seed collected in areas threatened by development. This study seeks to determine the demographic characteristics of this species in the restored and non-restored managed sites to provide basic ecological information regarding life history parameters and to judge the effectiveness of the restoration. For two years (1997–1998) we collected information on seed bank abundance, field seed germination, plant survivorship, and seed production to create a stage-based transition matrix model. The model suggests that population growth and abundance as assayed by λ (rate of increase) are stable to declining and are similar between the restoration and natural sites. A reduction in competition had a positive effect on population growth. Elasticity analysis showed that plants germinating earlier in the spring and becoming established as an early cohort contributed a greater level of reproductive output than plants germinating in late spring. Lowered population growth for 1997 is attributed to a cooler and dryer than average early spring that delayed germination and subsequent seed production. Elasticity analysis also suggested that the presence of a persistent seed bank was crucial for long-term population maintenance and may allow for recovery in areas of low aboveground abundance through soil manipulation.