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Few pristine floodplain ecosystems remain in the southeastern United States. Historically, these ecosystems have been home to diverse and highly productive plant communities. Many of these landscapes have been destroyed or degraded, including those in North Carolina. Despite the ecological significance of floodplain plant communities and their current imperiled status, there is little understanding of floodplain vegetation in the state or elsewhere.

The goal of doctoral student Elizabeth Matthews’ research is to provide detailed vegetation information on bottomland hardwood forested wetlands for restoration activities in the North Carolina Piedmont. She collected data in the five major NC Piedmont river basins: the Catawba, Yadkin, Cape Fear, Neuse, and Tar. She used these data to develop detailed, vital records on the composition, structure, and physical setting of the best remaining examples of wetland vegetation throughout the NC Piedmont.

Elizabeth’s research has the potential to improve the success of restoration projects across the state. It also may provide a model for other states to develop and disseminate reference information for restoration activities.