Date of Award

Spring 2008

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

James O. Luken

Third Advisor

John J. Hutchens, Jr.


Ultimately, the protection and persistence of rare wetlands relies on recognizing and understanding regional spatial and temporal patterns, the result of those patterns on ecosystem dynamics and diversity, and the consequences of disturbing or impacting them. Carolina bays are unique geomorphic landforms of the South Atlantic Coastal Plain that contribute significantly to biodiversity of South Carolina and are considered a vital wetland resource. Bays are currently vulnerable to negative human impacts via alteration of habitat, rapid development, and significant gaps in wetland protection. My research attempted to recognize and illustrate these spatiotemporal patterns and trends of Carolina bays using a hydrogeologic setting (HGS) template. Resolving the relative contributions of local and regional processes may help to understand patterns of species richness and diversity within these systems. My results suggest that Carolina bays occupy distinct HGS, which were related significantly to bay condition, with reported differences in geologic strata, landscape position, human landuse, soil, and plant species diversity. Carolina bays have declined in number and biotic integrity over the last 30 years, but most noteworthy were the 50% reduction of minimally-impacted bays and the doubling of median distance between intact bays. Statewide census data showed that some National Wetland Inventory community types are uncommon on the landscape and need to be better represented in protected areas. The vast majority of Carolina bays were jurisdictionally isolated wetlands and at risk of continued and accelerated degradation. Based on my results, it was apparent that "no-net loss" is not a viable option to adequately protect Carolina bays under vague statements of significant nexus, Army Corp of Engineer current case-by-case evaluation, or allowing mitigation to be based on simple measures of area or ratios for "replacement-in-kind" substitutions. Clear, enforceable federal and state mandates must be developed to protect this globally rare wetland type. My study provides managers with an HGS template that offers information on the distribution, abundance, and extent of disturbance for a national wetland resource (Carolina bays), assists efforts to conserve wetland diversity on the landscape, and steers policymakers to clearly define a means of protection.