Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Coastal Marine and Wetland Studies


Coastal and Marine Systems Science

First Advisor

Kevin S. Godwin

Second Advisor

James O. Luken

Third Advisor

Michelle Barthet


Historically high rates of human impact and recent Supreme Court cases, which have affected the regulation of geographically isolated wetlands in the United States, suggest that Carolina bays may be at high risk of human impacts in the future. Conservation efforts should be established based on applied ecological data and, if regulations by state and federal agencies are unable to conserve Carolina bay wetlands, it may be important to prioritize individual bays for preservation on protected lands. I examined plant community composition, diversity, richness, and rarity and soil parameters in six Carolina bays across South Carolina, using a replicated ecological approach, across three general palustrine vegetation classes (i.e., forested, scrub-shrub, and emergent). Sampling stations were established to measure overstory, woody understory, and herbaceous vegetation on transects that ran along the long axis of each bay. At each sampling station, soil samples were collected for analysis of pH, extractable nutrients, and nitrogen (NO3) and water level was measured. Multiple soil parameters were significantly different between bays dominated by different palustrine vegetation classes including pH (p=1.71E-05), nitrogen (p=6.189E-05), and phosphorous (p=0.0009). Shannon-Weiner diversity was significantly different between emergent and forested bays (p= 3.50 E-16), and between emergent and shrub bays (p= 3.02 E-55), but not significantly different between forested and shrub bays (p=0.1956). I also found that Carolina bays dominated by palustrine emergent vegetation had the highest plant species richness, contained the highest number of vulnerable and imperiled species, and were the least represented on protected lands throughout the state. If the six Carolina bays in my study were prioritized for conservation based on plant community, those dominated by palustrine emergent vegetation would be of highest priority.