This report documents changes in forest structure and growth potential of dominant trees in salt-impacted tidal and non-tidal baldcypress wetlands of the southeastern United States. We inventoried basal area and tree height, and monitored incremental growth (in basal area) of codominant baldcypress (Taxodium distichum) trees monthly, for over four years, to examine the inter-relationships among growth, site fertility, and soil physico-chemical characteristics. We found that salinity, soil total nitrogen (TN), flood duration, and flood frequency affected forest structure and growth the greatest. While mean annual site salinity ranged from 0.1 to 3.4 ppt, sites with salinity concentrations of 1.3 ppt or greater supported a basal area of less than 40 m2/ha. Where salinity was < 0.7 ppt, basal area was as high as 87 m2/ha. Stand height was also negatively affected by higher salinity. However, salinity related only to soil TN concentrations or to the relative balance between soil TN and total phosphorus (TP), which reached a maximum concentration between 1.2 and 2.0 ppt salinity. As estuarine influence shifts inland with sea-level rise, forest growth may become more strongly linked to salinity, not only due to salt effects but also as a consequence of site nitrogen imbalance.
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Vol. 29 • No. 2