Author ORCID Identifier

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Integrative Life Sciences

First Advisor

Julie Zinnert, PhD


As the climate continues to change it is difficult to predict how barrier island function will respond to global change drivers accompanying predicted climate change. Disturbance frequency and nutrient enrichment in coastal regions are drivers of plant community change that increase with climate change. Plant communities on barrier islands are not only tightly connected to barrier island function but are also some of the first communities affected by environmental change, making them a critical piece in understanding how current drivers of global change will impact the future of barrier islands. The objective of my dissertation was to observe and manipulate coastal plant communities at local and large-scales to inform community-level species and trait-based alterations caused by differences in response to disturbance and nutrient enrichment. My results indicate barrier island trait-based communities can vary over local spatial scales depending on overarching topography and historic disturbance response. There is scale dependency in relationships between dominant stability domains, barrier island elevation, and dune plant community structure. At large spatial scales, climatic differences among islands contributes more to dune community richness and composition than elevation differences. At local scales, impacts of elevation, island stability, and local ecological processes on dune plant communities comes into focus. I also show that nutrient enrichment accompanied by climate change significantly alters both trait-based and species community composition. Species composition, trait-based composition, and lifeform abundance all produce conflicting results in response to nutrient additions, but these complexities can be clarified with detailed trait and species analyses when used cooperatively.


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