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Taming the Beast: Managing Hydrology to Control Carolina Willow (Salix caroliniana) Seedlings and Cuttings

Authors


Address correspondence to P. F. Quintana-Ascencio, email pedro.quintana-ascencio@ucf.edu

Abstract

Historically, wetlands along the St. Johns River, Florida, were dominated by herbaceous marshes. However, in the last 50 years many areas transformed to shrub-dominated wetlands, at the same time a system of levees and canals was constructed to control flooding. We tested the role of water management in controlling Carolina willow (Salix caroliniana), a native shrub that accounts for most of this shift. We assessed survival and growth of seedlings and cuttings on four artificial islands. We planted willow seedlings and cuttings at the spring waterline and at three higher levels (+17.5, +35, and +50 cm) and evaluated their responses to natural hydrologic fluctuations. Overall, seedlings had lower survival than cuttings. Highest mortality occurred during summer floods and willows greater than 50 cm above marsh surface had the highest survivorship. Surviving seedlings attained similar height and biomass among elevations, but the cuttings had greater stem diameter, stem height, and biomass at higher elevations. In the second experiment, we planted seedlings and short (25 cm) and tall (50 cm) cuttings at the waterline and at three higher levels (+25, +35, and +50 cm) in artificial ponds with controlled water levels. Before flooding, seedlings at the highest elevation suffered some mortality due to desiccation, but after flooding, they had the highest survival. Elevation did not affect cutting survival, but those at the lowest elevation had the greatest height and biomass. Hydrologic manipulation can be a powerful tool to control willow establishment. However, its success depends on timely and prolonged inundation or water drawdown.

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