Rivercane Rivercane

[ Canebrake Restoration ]

Canebrake restoration projects throughout the southeastern U.S. focus on restoring habitat, ecosystem function, and plant materials available for Native American artesians. The restoration of canebrakes enhance habitat for other critically endangered species, including Bachman's warbler. Other parts of the world are using bamboo in restoration of ecosystem function. Canebrakes have several important and unique attributes important for water quality. They are able to increase soil porosity and enhance infiltration of surface water due to the interwoven system of rhizomes and roots and dense culms which disperse and decrease velocity of overland flow uniformly across the ground surface ( 10, 12 ). This combination of attributes demonstrates the vital role this plant community can play reducing sedimentation and non-point source contamination, while the stabilizing of stream and river banks.

The use of rivercane in restoration projects may depend largely on its ability to compete with exotics. A recent study at Duke University ( 28 ) shows that transplanted cane survives well in areas dominated by both Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense) and Japanese stilt grass (Microstegium vimineum). However, cane clumps tend to expand more quickly when privet is removed ( 28 ).

A restoration study in Kentucky's ( 31 ) western Knobs region, studied the effects of woodchip mulch and composted manure culm clumps transplanted into a riparian corridor. Researchers found high establishment success (98%) and growth rate for transplanted culms over two growing seasons. Although soil amendments increased culm production untreated culms also had high establishment success and growth; careful site selection, transplantation and site maintenance may be sufficient to ensure adequate cane establishment.

Examples of Restoration Projects:

Environmental Protection Agency - United States

EPA Region 4 grant: Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians' Pearl River Wetland Demonstration Project (Mississippi State University). A rivercane restoration project is currently underway on tribal lands belonging to the Mississippi Band of the Choctaw Indians (MBCI), along the upper the reaches of the Pearl River. The MBCI relationship to rivercane reaches well beyond its value as a riparian buffer. Rivercane was traditionally used for more than 2000 items, from scoops to coffins. For more than a thousand years, artisans have woven an astonishing array of baskets and mats of rivercane for scores of uses. Although, resources are limited, artisans work daily to create integrally double-woven baskets for a market of collectors.

Hence, the conservation of these populations and their potential use as riparian buffers must begin to implement and address factors such as: improving mitigation of wetlands using canebrakes; enhancing propagation methods; maximizing genetic diversity and genetic drift; define protocols for canebrake restoration in riparian habitats, and develop adequate measures for monitoring and assessing wetland health by addressing ecological, cultural and economic factors. Funded by the EPA and the SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Conservation Fund, the aim of this project is to investigate propagation techniques and restore canebrake areas along the Pearl River. Although this project is still in its beginning stages, over 1,000 seedlings have already been planted. Seedlings will be monitored for survival and growth. Planting sites were selected as those susceptible to erosion (outer bends) and deposition (inner bends) in order to monitor the effect of canebrake establishment on stream bank stabilization. Sediment markers (t-posts) were installed to monitor sediment depths within and outside of planting areas. Additional sediment markers (welding rods) were inserted horizontally into eroding banks to monitor bank-sloughing along planted areas.

The survival and growth of newly-planted seedlings will be monitored regularly to provide additional information concerning rivercane establishment. Plantings along elevational gradients will provide information about seedling survival at fluctuating water depths. Comparison of survival and growth at different planting densities will also yield new information for future rivercane restoration projects. Adjacent non-planted areas will be used for comparison, as well as remnant canebrake stands.

In connection with this project, studies conducted on the campus of Mississippi State University will investigate the effects of shade and fertilizer and the growth and productivity of rivercane. This information will provide valuable insight for future restoration projects across the Southeast.

Cane planting along the Pearl River
Cane planting along the Pearl River

Nature Conservancy, Missouri

Land Trust for the Little Tennessee

Western Carolina University

The University of Memphis

Cattle Farm, Moody Missouri