Title of Abstract

Structure of Salt Marsh and Maritime Forest Plant Communities: Possible Impacts of Increasing Salinity Due to Rising Sea Level

Submitting Student(s)

Mackenzie JenkinsFollow

Faculty Mentor

One WU mentor: Jennifer Schafer, Ph.D.; schaferj@winthrop.edu

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Department

Biology

Faculty Mentor

Jennifer Schafer, Ph.D.

Abstract

Sea level rise caused by global warming can lead to flooding and salt water encroachment in coastal habitats, such as salt marshes and maritime forests, increasing salinity concentrations. The objective of my study was to analyze how plant species presence, percent cover, and height vary with distance from the tidal creek in coastal habitats. I hypothesized that percent cover and height of salt marsh vegetation would increase as distance from the tidal creek increases. I established three 40 m transects in the salt marsh habitat on Horse Island in South Carolina and recorded plant species presence, percent cover of each species, and height of the tallest Spartina alterniflora individual in 11 plots per transect. In the maritime forest, I established three plots and recorded plant species presence. I found five species in the salt marsh community and 22 species in the maritime forest community. There was no change in percent cover of salt marsh species from 0 to 24 m, but total percent cover of salt marsh species and percent cover of Spartina alterniflora increased as distance from the tidal creek increased from 24 to 40 m. Juncus roemerianus, Salicornia virginica, and Borrichia frutescens occurred only 36 to 40 m from the tidal creek, indicating pronounced zonation within the plant community. The height of S. alterniflora was negatively correlated with distance from the tidal creek. As sea level rises and salt concentrations increase inland, the cover and height of species in salt marsh plant communities will likely change.

Additional Fields About Your Abstract

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Honors Thesis Committee

Jennifer Schafer, Ph.D.; Michael Lipscomb, Ph.D.; Kunsiri Grubbs, Ph.D.; Cynthia Tant, Ph.D.

Honors Thesis Committee

Jennifer Schafer, Ph.D.; Michael Lipscomb, Ph.D.; Kunsiri Grubbs, Ph.D.; Cynthia Tant, Ph.D.

Course Assignment

HONR 450H - Schafer & HONR 451H - Lipscomb

Grant Support

Funded by a Research Council Grant

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Structure of Salt Marsh and Maritime Forest Plant Communities: Possible Impacts of Increasing Salinity Due to Rising Sea Level

Sea level rise caused by global warming can lead to flooding and salt water encroachment in coastal habitats, such as salt marshes and maritime forests, increasing salinity concentrations. The objective of my study was to analyze how plant species presence, percent cover, and height vary with distance from the tidal creek in coastal habitats. I hypothesized that percent cover and height of salt marsh vegetation would increase as distance from the tidal creek increases. I established three 40 m transects in the salt marsh habitat on Horse Island in South Carolina and recorded plant species presence, percent cover of each species, and height of the tallest Spartina alterniflora individual in 11 plots per transect. In the maritime forest, I established three plots and recorded plant species presence. I found five species in the salt marsh community and 22 species in the maritime forest community. There was no change in percent cover of salt marsh species from 0 to 24 m, but total percent cover of salt marsh species and percent cover of Spartina alterniflora increased as distance from the tidal creek increased from 24 to 40 m. Juncus roemerianus, Salicornia virginica, and Borrichia frutescens occurred only 36 to 40 m from the tidal creek, indicating pronounced zonation within the plant community. The height of S. alterniflora was negatively correlated with distance from the tidal creek. As sea level rises and salt concentrations increase inland, the cover and height of species in salt marsh plant communities will likely change.