Stefanie Lane

Tidal freshwater marshes (TFMs) are the “last stop” in the riparian network as river effluents discharge into the ocean. They are the highly complex interface of terrestrial and marine systems, and of immense importance for habitat, carbon sequestration, and nutrient cycling. These wetlands are shrinking due to pressures from sea level rise and urbanization, contributing to biodiversity loss.

Natural recovery and self-sustainability of sites, whether benefiting from active restoration or not, depend on the dispersal and establishment success of plants.  If any step in the process of dispersal or establishment is disrupted, a bottleneck in community succession can occur and inhibit successful self-sustainability.  In wetland systems, these steps include seed entrainment into water flows, transport in currents, grounding at a potential recipient sites, and suitable recruitment conditions at the grounding site.

As sea levels rise, TFM communities will experience accelerated shifts in salinity and tidal inundation regime which will shift species composition across all tidal elevations. In order to facilitate the creation or expansion of TFMs it will be instructive to test mechanisms of local vs. regional dispersal and early plant recruitment from local species pools (seed banks). Additionally, measuring plant communities’ resistance to change over time will provide predictive insights to their functional capacity on decadal timescales. My project seeks to determine critical drivers of self-sustaining wetland plant communities in freshwater tidal networks. Through this work I will evaluate the natural dispersal and establishment processes to understand the limits to natural recovery.

I started at UBC as a MSc in 2018, and I transferred into the PhD program in 2020. In March 2021 I advanced to PhD candidacy.

I am honoured to have twice been awarded as ‘Best Graduate Teaching Assistant’ by the Faculty of Forestry in memory of Dr. Jordan L. Burke