In October 2009, low-height aerial photographs taken from a helium blimp revealed the presence of Azolla sp. over substantial portions of The Nature Conservancy (TNC) marsh complex at Cheyenne Bottoms in central Kansas. Azolla is a small, aquatic fern that has worldwide distribution; the mostly likely species for the central Great Plains is A. cristata. Although recorded previously in central Kansas, Azolla had not been seen in TNC marshes before, so its sudden appearance is remarkable. Widespread flooding in 2007 is considered the most likely means for transporting Azolla spores or plant fragments into TNC marshes; however, several other mechanisms are possible. The long-term significance of Azolla in TNC marshes is difficult to gauge at this point; both positive and negative consequences may happen in future years.
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Vol. 113 • No. 1/2