Recovery of Vegetation of Barrier Island Washover Zones

by R. I. Lonard, Univ Texas-Pan American, Edinburg, United States,
F. W. Judd, Univ Texas-Pan American, Edinburg, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Coastal Zone '93


Barrier islands are prime examples of disturbance dominated ecosystems. They are formed, shaped, and moved by hurricanes. During storms overwash uproots large expanses of vegetation and covers other vegetated areas with sand. We initiated studies in June 1986 to investigate the recovery of vegetation along washover margins to simulated hurricane effects. In vegetation removal experiments, cover increased at a rate of 5.8% per year on the north margin and 10.0% per year on the south margin of a washover. At the same time, cover decreased on control plots. In sand coverage experiments, cover increased much more slowly 10 cm (2.7% per year) and 20 cm (2.0% per year) sand coverage plots. Conversely 30 cm sand coverage plots showed an average annual increase in cover of 12.0%. Species richness was usually restored within a year in both vegetation removal and sand coverage experiments. However, there was a significant change in species composition and shifts in dominance. These data suggest that the vegetation of washover margins is in a continuous state of change. Fimbristylis castanea appears to be an important initial colonizing species.

Subject Headings: Sandy soils | Vegetation | Barrier islands | Overwash | Storms | Professional societies | Hurricanes and typhoons | Natural resources

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