Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Coastal Marine and Wetland Studies


Coastal and Marine Systems Science

First Advisor

James O. Luken

Second Advisor

Kevin S. Godwin

Third Advisor

Vladislav Gulis


The focus of this study was to determine the bryophyte communities present along the Waccamaw River, South Carolina and determine if there are any environmental constraints affecting bryophyte diversity. Another aspect of this study was to determine if bryophyte communities are bioindicators for dissolved inorganic nutrients in the Waccamaw River. A total of 1050 bryophyte specimens were collected over the course of the study. Twelve genera were identified and consisted of thirteen moss species and one liverwort species. The bryophyte species were collected at seven sites along the Waccamw River in a nested sampling design which assessed the bryophytes growing on trees, knees, and benthic zone (river bottom). The specimens were then taken to the lab and washed of any debris and epiphytes. Afterwards they were sorted by species based on leaf morphology. Then they were weighed for an initial wet weight and placed in a drying oven for 48 to 72 hours at 77◦ C. Then they were weighed again to get a dry weight which was used to determine the biomass of the species. Water samples were collected at the seven sites to determine the variability of the water chemistry along the Waccamaw River. These samples were sent to the Agricultural Service Laboratory at Clemson University and were tested for the following variables: calculated dissolved salts, calculated sodium absorption ratio, calcium, carbonate, chloride, copper, bicarbonate, boron, electrical conductivity, iron, nitrate nitrogen, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, total dissolved solids, zinc. A YSI 85 instrument was used to determine the salinity, temperature, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, and oxygen concentration in the field. Bryophytes can store nutrients in their tissues at a higher rate than those found in their surrounding environment. Therefore, samples of two commonly found bryophytes (Fontinalis sullivantii and Calypogeia muelleriana) were sent to the Agricultural Service Laboratory at Clemson University and analyzed for the following variables: phosphorus, potassium, total nitrogen, calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, manganese, iron, sulfur, and sodium. These samples were not replicated and used to determine the variability of the nutrients in the bryophytes species along the Waccamaw River. Bryophytes were found on trees in 33 plots, on knees in 33 subplots, and on benthic substrate in 23 quadrats. Benthic samples yielded the highest biomass per m2 of river bottom while the biomass of bryophytes growing on trees yielded the lowest biomass (g/m2). Total bryophyte biomass was highest at the Conway site and lowest at the Sandy Island. Fontinalis sullivantii and Calypogeia muelleriana yielded the highest biomass and the common species according to presence/absence data were Brachythecium acuminatum, Calypogeia muelleriana, Fontinalis sullivantii and Fissidens fontanus. The water physicochemical parameters and elemental composition of plant tissue samples showed little variability among sites, however, total dissolved solids and total bryophyte biomass were significantly correlated. The bryophyte communities were not correlated with any environmental variables and therefore are not bioindicators of ecosystem health for the Waccamaw River, SC. However, they do provide valuable information about the ecological integrity of the Waccamaw River and potentially other blackwater river systems.