Plant Ecology

Lisa Giencke

Conservation Seed Bank

In 2019, the Plant Ecology lab at the Jones Center at Ichauway initiated a conservation seed bank to preserve seed from plants that are rare in Georgia. This included a list of 35 species that are present on Ichauway and are considered to be vulnerable, imperiled, or critically imperiled in the state. Additionally, we partner with the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance to collect seed from other rare species across southwest Georgia. In the first year of collecting, we were able to add seed from 23 of our target species to the conservation seed bank. In 2020, we expanded our priority species list to include species that are endemic to the longleaf pine ecosystem and are globally rare.

Drivers of Ground Cover Biodiversity

Impacts of Fire

Fire is the main driver that maintains the biodiversity of the longleaf pine ecosystem (Kirkman et al. 2016). We are studying how ground cover responds to fire reintroduction after more than a decade of fire exclusion. Our results suggest that recovery of species richness happens faster at larger spatial scales, but that fine-scale recovery of species richness may happen over a much longer time span. Furthermore, a return to pre-suppression species composition may also require a long period of time.

Impacts of Logging

We continue to study the recovery of the ground cover following disturbance due to logging. Our results suggest that the ground cover is resilient to a low level of disturbance, but that high levels of disturbance leave a legacy that lasts at least a decade and likely much long

Ground Cover Restoration

Knowledge concerning best restoration practices for the ground cover of the longleaf pine ecosystem lags behind restoration efforts focusing on prairie ecosystems of the Midwest U.S. Therefore, we have studied some of the technical details of restoration implementation such as seed planting depth, seeding rates, seed mixes, etc. We also participated in a common garden study that examined how plant performance varies among seeds sourced from across the Southeast (Giencke et al. 2018, Gustafson et al. 2018).