Flooding facility helps scientists examine the ecophysiology of floodplain species used in bottomland hardwood restorations
Bottomland hardwood ecosystems, important for their unique functions and values, have experienced considerable degradation since European settlement through deforestation, development, and drainage. Currently, considerable effort is underway to restore ecological functions on degraded bottomland sites. Restoration requires a better understanding of the biological components, especially plants, and their interactions with other biotic and abiotic components of the ecosystem. Previous experimental approaches have focused on the effects of stress on floodplain plant species in controlled, small-scale studies or large, uncontrolled ecosystem-scale studies. We describe a facility, named the Flooding Research Facility (FRF), where hydrologic regimes can be manipulated to study ecophysiology of floodplain species. Key features of the FRF include the ability to establish experiments on a scale larger than would be possible in a greenhouse, but small enough to control key abiotic variables, such as flood frequency, duration, and light availability on native bottomland soil. Design of the FRF allows for random and replicated treatment applications. Additionally, we provide an example of ongoing research on the effects of flooding and light availability on pondberry (Lindera melissifolia), a federally endangered shrub found in the southeastern United States.