When wetland restoration includes re-establishing native plant taxa as an objective, an understanding of the variables driving the development of plant communities is necessary. With this in mind, we examined soil and physiographic characteristics of depressional wetlands of three vegetation types (cypress-gum swamps, cypress savannas, and grass-sedge marshes) located in a fire-maintained longleaf pine ecosystem in southwestern Georgia, USA. Our objective was to establish whether plant community development in these wetlands is controlled primarily by hydrogeomorphic features or by different disturbance histories. We did not identify physical features that uniquely separate the wetland vegetation types. Instead, we observed a range of topo-edaphic conditions that likely drive variations in hydrologic regimes, which in turn, are probable influences on fire regime. We propose that several long-term successional trajectories may be initiated in the prolonged absence of fire, altered hydrology, or both, which link the distinctive vegetation types. Thus, a range of vegetation types may be suitable as potential restoration goals for these depressional wetlands. We suggest that the opportunities or constraints for use of prescribed fire in the long-term management of restored wetlands and adjacent uplands should be a significant consideration in the development of restoration strategies targeting specific plant communities.
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Vol. 20 • No. 2