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Potential Disconnect between Observations of Hydrophytic Vegetation, Wetland Hydrology Indicators, and Hydric Soils in Unique Pitcher Plant Bog Habitats of the Southern Gulf Coast

Berkowitz, Jacob F., Page, Sanderson, Noble, Chris V.
Southeastern naturalist 2014 v.13 no.4 pp. 721-734
Drosera, Sarracenia, anaerobic conditions, aquatic plants, bioturbation, bogs, carnivorous plants, coasts, ecosystems, habitats, hydric soils, hydrology, minerals, organic matter, resource management, saturated conditions, scientists, soil morphology, wetland plants, Gulf of Mexico
The Sarracenia spp. (pitcher plant) bogs located along the southern Gulf of Mexico represent a unique natural resource characterized by endangered and endemic wetland floral communities that include a number of carnivorous plants (e.g., pitcher plants and Drosera spp. [sundews]). Despite the prevalence of obligate wetland plant species and indicators of wetland hydrology, the soils underlying this niche ecosystem often lack clear indicators of hydric soil morphology, posing challenges to wetland delineation and resource management. The National Technical Committee for Hydric Soils and an interagency team of soil scientists investigated saturated conditions and anaerobic soil conditions in pitcher plant bogs. Our results demonstrate that many of the pitcher plant-bog soils examined failed to meet an approved hydric soil indicator. Herein, we discuss potential factors preventing the formation of typical hydric soil morphologies including: low organic-matter content, high iron-concentrations, extensive bioturbation, presence of high-chroma minerals (e.g., chert), and short saturation-intervals. Our examination of soil morphology and condition in these unique and ecologically valuable habitats indicates that additional studies are required to address the apparent disconnect between observations of soils, hydrophytic vegetation, and indicators of wetland hydrology to ensure the appropriate management of these endemic natural resources.