Hydrogeomorphology, environment, and vegetation associations across a latitudinal gradient in highland wetlands of the northeastern USA

Jessica Peterson-Smith, Denice Heller Wardrop, Charles Andrew Cole, Christopher P. Cirmo, Robert P. Brooks

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Abstract

Undisturbed, highland wetlands in the northeastern USA are unique habitats which maintain ecological integrity in this region. These ecosystems may be threatened by a changing environment. To protect, restore, and create these wetlands, an understanding of the relationship between vegetation composition, environmental regime, and the underlying hydrogeomorphology is needed. Using a hydrogeomorphic (HGM) classification scheme, we analyzed the environmental regime and vegetation in groundwater and small-order, stream-fed wetlands in the Adirondacks and Catskills of New York, the Appalachians of Pennsylvania and of Virginia and West Virginia. The similarity of environmental regime and then species composition between wetlands across and within regions were analyzed using ordination and cluster analysis. Plant associations and distinguishing factors were determined. Within a region, wetlands with similar environmental regime or species composition were often grouped by HGM subclass. Beaver influence and groundwater sources may account for discrepancies between HGM and community composition. Similarly structured plant associations across regions included Acer/herbaceous wetlands, Acer/Fraxinus slopes, and Acer/Tsuga/herbaceous wetlands. Plant associations were primarily distinguished by soils in the Adirondacks, soils and hydrology in the Catskills, spatial location and disturbance in Pennsylvania, and spatial location in Virginia. Regional differences and non-environmental drivers of species composition will modify generalized relationships between hydrogeomorphology, environmental regime, and species composition and should be accounted for in wetland design and management activities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)155-172
Number of pages18
JournalPlant Ecology
Volume203
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009

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All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology
  • Plant Science

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