Matthew Abbott

Ph.D. Candidate, University of Mississippi

Conference Travel Grant Type 2 (Society of Wetland Scientists)

A New Explanation for the Rarity of Carnivorous Plants in Habitats with Nutrient-Rich Substrates

“The carnivorous syndrome in plants has long been hypothesized to be an adaptation for thriving and competing in nutrient-poor soils; however, recent evidence suggests that plant carnivory may actually be an alternative adaptation to root aerenchyma in wet hypoxic substrates. Despite the evidence showing that carnivorous plants are more strongly correlated with wet substrates than with nutrient-poor substrates, the question of why carnivorous plants are largely absent from nutrient-rich wetlands still remains. In this study we test two alternative hypotheses explaining this absence: inadequacy of hypoxia avoidance or competitive inferiority. To test these hypotheses, we excavated the carnivorous pitcher plant Sarracenia alata from its native bog habitat and planted it into pots containing nutrient-poor bog soil or nutrient-rich marsh soil. We then planted the pots into either bog or marsh and removed neighbors from half of the plots to reduce competition. We assessed pitcher loss or gain and pitcher size by counting and measuring diameters of green pitchers immediately after establishing the plots and again two months later. We also took redox potential measurements in both the bog and marsh sites to test the hypothesis that the marsh, due to its higher productivity, was more hypoxic than the bog.”