A habitat characterization and suitability model for the endangered wetland plant <italic>Lindera melissifolia</italic> in the Southeastern Coastal Plain
Beckley, Anne Cubeta
Gramling, Joel M.
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<italic>Lindera melissifolia</italic> is a federally endangered wetland shrub endemic to the Southeastern Coastal Plain and the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley. <italic>Lindera melissifolia</italic> is known to occupy temporarily flooded habitats, but little work has been done to describe range-wide habitat characteristics and species distribution in the Southeastern Coastal Plain region. This research utilizes vegetation and environmental data collected from 50 plots in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia to develop a habitat characterization for the Southeastern Coastal Plain. Cluster analysis, nonmetric multidimensional scaling, indicator species analysis, and analysis of variance were used to group and describe plots into four isolated wetland habitat types. Swamp Tupelo Depression Pond and Successional Swamp Forest communities supported the densest and healthiest <italic>L. melissifolia</italic> populations, followed by Pond-Cypress Pond and Pocosin, and Limestone Sink Forest habitats. A species distribution model was created for <italic>L. melissifolia</italic> in the Francis Marion National Forest and the Woodbury Wildlife Management Area and Heritage Preserve, both in South Carolina. Results from the model describe habitat parameters and identify areas with a high probability of habitat suitability throughout the study area. A survey of sites with high predicted habitat suitability (≥88.5%) found that 100% of sites supported suitable <italic>L. melissifolia habitat</italic>, and 23% contained previously unknown populations. Results from the habitat characterization and the habitat suitability model were combined to provide recommendations to regional land managers on habitat suitability assessment, population discovery, and <italic>L. melissifolia</italic> restoration.