A Vegetative Survey of Back-Barrier Islands near Sapelo Island, Georgia
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This study was designed to examine the forest composition, structure and species richness of vegetation among undeveloped back-barrier islands near Sapelo Island, Georgia. Known colloquially as “marsh hammocks,” back-barrier islands are completely or partially encircled by estuarine saltmarsh. There are upwards of 1200 hammocks along the Georgia coast, comprising approximately 6900 ha. In the face of increased development pressure, the cumulative impacts caused by small-scale construction of homes, roads, bridges, and septic fields may alter natural hydrologic and ecological processes. We surveyed vegetation on 11 undeveloped hammocks in four size classes and found that overall species diversity is low, but the diversity of vascular plants may increase with island size. Local and regional planners and conservation organizations may use this information to help develop land-based projects that are consistent with the sustainable use of coastal resources.