I am researching Carolina bay plant communities in South Carolina. Carolina bays are unique wetlands that are only found on the Atlantic Coastal Plain. Most are isolated wetlands, meaning the major hydrologic factors inside the bays are precipitation and evapotransporation and they are beyond federal jurisdiction and protection.
Carolina bays are not a single type of plant community but geomorphic feature that can potentially house multiple plant communities. I am studying the composition of plant communities, the abiotic characteristics, and the seed banks within Carolina bays dominated by forested, shrub, and herbaceous vegetation. Seed banks play an important role in Carolina bays because of variability in environmental conditions. As conditions within the bay change, species that are well adapted to the new conditions are recruited from the seed bank. I will also assess the level of protection among different bay types. My research project will include the use of Global Imaging Systems (GIS) and National Wetland Inventory (NWI) data to assess the protection of Carolina bays, field measurements to assess plant communities and environmental factors, and a seedling emergence assay to assess seed bank composition. Understanding the abitotic and ecological patterns within and among Carolina bays is vital for future conservation and restoration efforts in South Carolina bays.