Lindera melissifolia responses to flood durations and light regimes suggest strategies for recovery and conservation
Passive management to preserve endangered plant species involves measures to avoid anthropogenic disturbance of natural populations, but this approach may not sustain plants that require disturbance-maintained habitats. Active management is often necessary to maintain existing habitats or provide new habitats for endangered species recovery. Our objective was to examine the effects of two disturbances in floodplain forests, soil flooding and light availability, on survival, stem length, stem diameter and ramet production of endangered Lindera melissifolia (Walt.) Blume. We used a water impoundment facility to control the timing and duration of flooding (0, 45 or 90 days) and shade houses to vary light availability (70, 63 or 5 % ambient light). Hydroperiod had little direct effect on steckling survival, stem length growth and stem diameter growth, supporting indications that soil flooding may be important for reduction of interspecific competition in L. melissifolia habitat. Greater ramet production by stecklings receiving no soil flooding likely resulted from longer periods of favorable soil conditions during each growing season. Positive stem length growth and stem diameter growth under all light levels demonstrates the plasticity of this species to acclimate to a range of light environments, though, greatest survival and stem length growth occurred when L. melissifolia received 37 % light, and stem diameter growth was greatest beneath 70 % light. Further, female clones produced more ramets as light availability increased. These results indicate that passive management absent natural disturbance could jeopardize sustainability of extant L. melissifolia populations, and this species would respond favorably to active management practices that create canopy openings to increase understory light availability.