Our research focuses on plant ecology and restoration of ecosystem structure and function, including the establishment of native plant communities and invasive plant management. Our work takes place in wetlands and aquatic habitats, terrestrial ecosystems and cultural landscapes such as roadsides.
Decision making for aquatic and wetland plant revegetation
Decisions about sourcing plant material for conservation and restoration should be based on science and linked to restoration goals, which typically target some ecosystem function. Examples of goals may include rapid plant establishment, long-term persistence, resistance to invasion, or some suite of pre-specified ecosystem functions. Propagule type, species selection, source location and level of genetic diversity all confer population-level traits to the restored population, and need to be experimentally tested prior to broad application in restoration practice. We have also been exploring these issues across ecosystems, and specifically in invaded wetlands and coastal dunes.
Coastal plant community resilience
Stress associated with climate change, including sea level rise and increased storms, threatens coastal plant communities and coastal resilience. Better understanding the mechanisms that link stresses to plant community alterations and mechanisms resulting in marsh loss and coastline instability will help guide management and restoration efforts. Projects focus on plant response to elevated salinity, increased flooding, and increased storminess on dominant marsh macrophytes and dune vegetation (Juncus roemerianus, Sabal palmetto, Spartina alterniflora, Uniola paniculata), and development of best practices for establishment and maintenance of living shorelines.
Restoration of native plant communities in altered environments
Barriers to native plant establishment include invasive species, altered biotic and abiotic site characteristics, and propagule limitation. The research goal is to determine efficient and ecologically-sound techniques for revegetation of native plant community diversity and function. Work includes assessments of the seedbank potential for recolonization of the native plant community (Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge marl prairies, Lake Apopka North Shore basin marshes, and semi-urban riparian forests) and development of plant selection, planting method, and establishment of submerged aquatic vegetation (Vallisneria americana and Potamogeton illinoiensis in Lake Apopka, FL). Research on invasive plant management has focused on the transition from control of herbaceous perennial invaders (Ruellia simplex in urban wetlands, Phragmites australis in salt marshes, and Phalaris arundinacea in northern temperate freshwater marshes) to active revegetation with native species via planting and seeding.
Partnerships for Invasive Plant Management
Effective approaches for managing invasive species are best co-developed with practitioners. One approach to learning while managing is adaptive management (AM) in which management decisions are improved over time based on an enhanced understanding of the system that comes from periodic monitoring + structured experimentation + modeling. Past projects have focused on the control of reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea) restoration of these wetlands after its removal.