Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Dr. Julie Zinnert


Drivers of vegetation zonation on barrier islands are complex and interconnected. Sand burial is a strong driver in dynamic coastal systems, especially in the foredune community. However, it is not well understood how burial impacts the interdunal swales communities and it is especially difficult to separate the effects of burial from salinity. Climate change is altering the frequency of overwash events as well as expanding the range of the native shrub, Morella cerifera, on the Virginia barrier islands. To accurately forecast island response to climate change it is important to understand how the shrub responds to sand burial. Juvenile and mature shrubs were experimentally buried at 0, ¼, ½, and ¾ height in a glasshouse to observe the growth response to burial independent of other factors. Morella cerifera shrubs were largely unaffected at low burial levels (< ½ height) and were stimulated at high levels (≥ ½ height). Shrubs recovered biomass deficits at low levels and prioritized vertical growth at high levels of burial. Shrubs in both life stages also produced adventitious roots in response to burial, increasing production with burial severity. Adult shrubs sacrificed belowground root biomass to support adventitious root and vertical growth at ¾ burial. Young shrubs were able to have an elevated growth in all three zones without sacrifice at any burial level. Morella cerifera exhibits a neutral, then positive response to sand burial and is resilient at both juvenile and mature stages. Burial is therefore not a major driver of M. cerifera zonation on the Virginia barrier islands.


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