Author ORCID Identifier


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Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Julie Zinnert


Highly dynamic coastal systems respond to disturbance events with a combination of topographic and vegetative changes. Sea level rise impacts on barrier islands have been quantified, but storm effects on vegetation are limited. Here we quantified barrier island vegetation change in response to an isolated storm event and compared to long-term periods. We hypothesized that disturbance-resisting areas with high woody vegetation cover and/or high foredune elevation would experience minimal transitions after a storm event, whereas disturbance-reinforcing areas with low vegetation cover and low foredune elevation would experience greater transitions between ecosystem states after a storm event. Patterns of dissonance were found at the island-scale, as net loss of woodland cover occurred during the storm and a net gain occurred through decadal regimes, indicative of a slow growing late successive vegetation responding to disturbance. Using sub-islands transects, significant correlations between stable upland vegetation covers (both woodland and grassland) and percent bare suggests that the amount of upland land cover may be important in upland community response to storm events. Maximum bare elevation was significantly correlated to woodland cover, indicative of disturbance resisting domains. Significant correlations found between pre-storm woodland cover (both area and percent) and non-changing grasslands suggest that the existence of woody vegetation is dependent on the establishment and extent of stable grasslands. No correlations were found with area of marshland converted to upland post storm. My results did not fully support my hypothesis but document upland vegetation interactions with elevation amidst a moderate coastal storm.


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