University of Florida

Native aquatic and wetland plant ecotype selection, storage and production for enhanced ecological function

Functioning freshwater and coastal wetlands are important for maintaining water quality, recharging groundwater, storing flood waters, and providing unique wildlife habitat. Large-scale habitat restoration and creation activities are associated with phosphate mining, agricultural and urban development. Similarly, recognition of both the aesthetically pleasing appearance of wetlands and their use as efficient "biological filters" for excess nutrients in storm water and agricultural runoff has stimulated the integrated use of herbaceous and woody wetland plants in retention ponds in urban areas and in the construction of treatment wetlands to enhance water quality associated with urban and agricultural runoff. While interspecific differences in wetland plant nutrient uptake and retention have been examined, little information exists on the feasibility of selecting superior intraspecific ecotypes with desirable physiological characteristics.

The demand for wetland plants currently is met from several sources, including nursery-grown (seed and vegetative propagated plants), propagules in mulch from destroyed wetlands, and bare-root transplants obtained from on-site or donor habitats. The most prevalent practice for many companies involved in habitat rehabilitation or creation has been to collect plant material from donor sites for replanting elsewhere. Increased restrictions on field collection have promoted efforts to develop more efficient nursery production practices including the use of in vitro propagation.

Nursery production of native plants for habitat restoration or creation often raises two ecologically important concerns: 1) the lack of knowledge and maintenance of genotypic diversity within vegetatively propagated species and 2) the potential negative results following introduction of genetically unadapted plant ecotypes into revegetation sites. The latter is also a concern when field-harvested transplants are used. Some regulatory agencies set guidelines that limit plant collections of either bare-root transplants or propagules for nursery production from populations within a set radial distance from each project site. Restoration projects strictly specifying use of plant materials obtained on-site are becoming more prevalent. These restrictions often limit sufficient availability of planting materials produced using conventional propagation methods. However, the relationship between geographic source distance and wetland plant adaptability remains unclear.

Specific Objectives

  1. Delineate genetic diversity within and between native plant populations using DNA fingerprinting technologies.
  2. Develop procedures for selection, in vitro propagation, and storage of aquatic, wetland and coastal plants used for phytoremediation, aquascaping and habitat restoration and creation.
  3. Evaluate ecotypic effect on early ex vitro growth and field performance of microporpagated aquatic and wetland plants.
  4. Determine validity of selecting and propagating native plant regional ecotypes for enhanced phytoremediation, aquascaping or habitat restoration and creation.

To explore specific information concerning this project, proceed to Michael Kane's personal web page.

Typical process of wetland plant genotype culture and evaluation.

Typical process of wetland plant genotype culture and evaluation.

 

Early ex vitro growth comparisons of wetland plant ecotypes.
Early ex vitro growth comparisons of wetland plant ecotypes.

 

Wetland plant evaluation
Wetland plant evaluation in residential (left) and commercial (right) retention ponds.

 

Comparative field evaluation of wetland plant ecotypes.
Comparative field evaluation of wetland plant ecotypes.

 

Effect of genotype, planting density and water depth on wetland plant establishment.
Effect of genotype, planting density and water depth on wetland plant establishment.
Time 0 (left) and 12 weeks post-planting (right).