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Endangered Species Research

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ESR 13:245-252 (2011)  -  DOI:

Factors influencing seedling recruitment in a critically endangered pitcher plant, Sarracenia rubra ssp. alabamensis 

J. D. Chesser, J. S. Brewer*

Department of Biology, University of Mississippi, PO Box 1848, University, Mississippi 38677-1848, USA
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: Sarracenia rubra ssp. alabamensis is a critically endangered pitcher plant endemic to central Alabama (USA); efforts have been made to protect the remaining populations, including the use of prescribed fire and thinning to restore the savanna-like structure that historically characterized its habitat and to promote the beneficial effects of fire on seedling establishment observed in other pitcher plant species. Despite these efforts, seedling recruitment remains very low within the largest population of S. rubra ssp. alabamensis. We considered the possibility that other factors such as germinability, seed removal (by predators or dispersal agents), and inadequate soil moisture were reducing or preventing seedling recruitment. We report the results of laboratory and field experiments investigating factors limiting seedling recruitment and establishment in the 2 largest remaining populations, which were observed at sites that differed in soil moisture, fire management, and the abundance of sphagnum moss. Seedling recruitment was higher at the wet unmanaged site than at the dry, fire-managed site. The major contributing factors to site differences in recruitment were a greater abundance of safe sites for germination (specifically, patches of sphagnum) and lower seedling mortality at the wet unmanaged site as a result of higher soil moisture. We recommend that land managers shift some of their attention to this and other wet sites and seek permission to increase population density and restore fire at these sites.

KEY WORDS: Fire suppression · Safe site · Soil moisture · Seepage bog · Restoration · Sphagnum · Pinus palustris · Fall Line Hills

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Cite this article as: Chesser JD, Brewer JS (2011) Factors influencing seedling recruitment in a critically endangered pitcher plant, Sarracenia rubra ssp. alabamensis . Endang Species Res 13:245-252.

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