The large river swamps of Louisiana have complex topography and hydrology, characterized by black willow (Salix nigra) dominance on accreting alluvial sediments and vast areas of baldcypress (Taxodium distichum) deepwater swamps with highly organic substrates. Seedling survival of these two wetland tree species is influenced by their growth rate in relation to the height and duration of annual flooding in riverine environments. This study examines the interactive effects of substrate, hydroperiod, and nutrients on growth rates of black willow and baldcypress seedlings. In a greenhouse experiment with a split-split-plot design, 1-year seedlings of black willow and baldcypress were subjected to two nutrient treatments (unfertilized versus fertilized), two hydroperiods (continuously flooded versus twice daily flooding/draining), and two substrates (sand versus commercial peat mix). Response variables included height, diameter, lateral branch count, biomass, and root:stem ratio. Black willow growth in height and diameter, as well as all biomass components, were significantly greater in peat substrate than in sand. Black willow showed a significant hydroperiod-nutrient interaction wherein fertilizer increased stem and root biomass under drained conditions, but flooded plants did not respond to fertilization. Baldcypress diameter and root biomass were higher in peat than in sand, and the same two variables increased with fertilization in flooded as well as drained treatments. These results can be used in Louisiana wetland forest models as inputs of seedling growth and survival, regeneration potential, and biomass accumulation rates of black willow and baldcypress.
Additional publication details
Interactive effects of substrate, hydroperiod, and nutrients on seedling growth of Salix nigra and Taxodium distichum