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Pheonah Nabukalu and Carrie A. Knott

Sea oats (Uniola paniculata) is an aesthetically pleasing native plant used for beach restoration along the northern Gulf of Mexico coast. Many beaches in this region have shallow, saturated dune profiles, which reduces sea oats survival. The objective of this study was to develop methods to identify saturation-tolerant sea oats breeding lines. Sea oats seedlings were evaluated for saturation tolerance in greenhouse, beach, and field environments from 2010 to 2012. In 2010, sea oats grown under eight treatments (seven greenhouse treatments and a natural beach site) were examined. In 2010, sea oats seedling survival 2 and 3 months after transplanting (MAT) was greatest for four greenhouse treatments (nonflooded control, 6 cm cyclic flood, 6 cm static flood, and 10 cm cyclic flood) and least at the beach environment (Holly Beach, LA). In 2011 and 2012, sea oats grown under six treatments (four greenhouse treatments, a natural beach site, and a saturated field site) were examined. In 2011, sea oats seedling survival 3 MAT ranged from 0.3% to 98%. The nonflooded greenhouse control had the greatest survival, whereas plants grown on dry bench regularly watered with 35 parts per thousand (ppt) saline solution had the least survival. Sea oats constantly flooded with 14 cm of saline water in the greenhouse had the least survival 2 and 3 MAT, 70% and 41%, respectively. Sea oats survival when flooded with 14 cm of fresh water 3 MAT correlated with a saturated beach environment, Holly Beach, LA, 6 MAT (r = 0.970, P = 0.030) and a saturated field environment, Baton Rouge, 6 MAT (r = 0.994, P = 0.006). These findings suggest that survival of sea oats grown in a greenhouse in 14 cm fresh water for 3 months correlates to sea oats survival at saturated beaches after 6 months, in the absence of significant storm events. Identifying protocols for selection of saturation-tolerant sea oats lines is essential to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of northern Gulf of Mexico sea oats breeding programs.