Date of Award

Spring 2009

Document Type

Legacy Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Coastal Marine and Wetland Studies


Coastal and Marine Systems Science


College of Science

First Advisor

Kevin S. Godwin

Second Advisor

John J. Hutchens, Jr.

Third Advisor

James O. Luken


Isolated wetlands occurring within the forested landscape of Sandy Island, SC, represent a range of plant assemblages that reflect disturbance and landscape setting. Research objectives of this study were to quantify: 1) wetland and upland vegetation structure, including longleaf seedling establishment; and 2) environmental variables between burned and unburned areas of Sandy Island. Six site pairs were matched based on treatment history (i.e., burned, unburned) and National Wetlands Inventory community classification. Wetland and upland sampling occurred at each site during drought conditions. Burned uplands had lower longleaf sapling density, litter depth, and groundcover than unburned areas, which contributed to significantly higher seedling density in the burned treatment. Shrub density was not significantly different between treatments in either wetlands or uplands. Wetland canopy richness was higher at burned sites, while the unburned treatment had higher groundcover richness. Upland areas with an average burn frequency of 2-3 years had a more open understory than unburned areas, and edaphic conditions conducive to longleaf seedling establishment. Wetlands were not targeted for prescribed fire but a significant difference in canopy and herbaceous richness between treatments was detected. Hydrology, fire cycles, and edaphic conditions varied among treatments and sites, and appeared to explain variations in vegetation structure. Since prescribed fire began on the island in 2001 it has had a significant effect on the structure of wetlands and uplands at Sandy Island, SC.