Identification of salt tolerant baldcypress (Taxodium distichum (L.) Rich) for planting in coastal areas

Abstract

Coastal baldcypress (Taxodium distichum) forests are being killed in the southern United States as a result of saltwater intrusion. Tank studies have indicated substantial intraspecific variation in salt tolerance within baldcypress populations, but only one field study has been conducted and it used a limited seed source. The major objective of this project was to expand the collection range of baldcypress across the southeastern United States and determine if there are baldcypress populations that can survive and grow in saltwater damaged areas. Seeds were collected in 1996 from eight estuarine areas (James River = VA; Cape Fear River = NC; Winyah Bay = SC; Ogeechee River = GA; Ochlockonee River = FL; Mobile Bay = AL; Biloxi River=MS; Chalmette = LA). Seeds were stratified and planted, and seedlings were grown for 2 years before planting in two abandoned ricefields on Hobcaw Barony near Georgetown, South Carolina in 1999. Salinity levels reached 18.5ppt during 2001 at the peak of the worst drought on record. By 2002, the only seedlings surviving were those from LA, AL, and FL. After 5 years in the field, LA seedlings were the best performers with a mortality rate of only 27%. More detailed analyses of the biologic and genetic characteristics of trees growing in the LA site need to be completed to determine if they represent a source of baldcypress seed possessing greater tolerance to saline conditions. If so, seeds need to be collected and nurseries established to grow seedlings to help restore degraded wetland swamp areas along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts.

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Correspondence to William H. Conner.

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Conner, W.H., Inabinette, L.W. Identification of salt tolerant baldcypress (Taxodium distichum (L.) Rich) for planting in coastal areas. New Forest 29, 305–312 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11056-005-5658-y

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Keywords

  • Baldcypress
  • Salinity intrusion
  • Salinity tolerance
  • Taxodium distichum
  • Wetland restoration