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Sawgrass (Cladium jamaicense) survival in a regime of fire and flooding

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Fire followed by flooding has been observed to reduce stand density greatly or kill large stands of sawgrass (Cladium jamaicense Crantz). Nonetheless sawgrass is the dominant plant in the marshes of the Everglades in southern Florida, where lightning fire occurs during the season when the like lihood of flooding immediately after fire is greatest. Saw grass regrowth was observed after three different fires (two caused by lightning and one set by managers) under different hydrologic conditions in order to determine how sawgrass survives in a regime where fires occur at the same time of year as rapidly rising water. Mean sawgrass leaf elongation rates were found to be less than the mean rate of water-level increase during May and June, suggesting that sawgrass could not survive solely by outgrowing rising water. Remnant culms were usually 8 to 14 cm above water level immediately post fire, equivalent to approximately 10 days regrowth. This ‘headstart’ on growth reduced the probability of widespread death due to flooding by about half during the period when lightning fires were most common.

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Herndon, A., Gunderson, L. & Stenberg, J. Sawgrass (Cladium jamaicense) survival in a regime of fire and flooding. Wetlands 11, 17–28 (1991).

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