Bissett, S.N.; Zinnert, J.C., and Young, D.R., 2014. Linking habitat with associations of woody vegetation and vines on two mid-Atlantic barrier islands.
Coastal habitats are inherently vulnerable to global change, as they are the first areas impacted by sea level rise and to experience more frequent and intense storms. Shrubs and vines dominate the climax communities in these environments, and with comparatively long regeneration periods, they are highly vulnerable to shifting topography and climate. We investigated abiotic and biotic components of two barrier island landscapes with similar plant communities but different site histories to clarify relationships among physical factors, woody plants, and vines. On Hog Island, Virginia and at Duck, North Carolina, intrasite comparisons with reference to distance from shoreline and elevation were made to evaluate relationships between woody and vine communities, as well as edaphic characteristics. Elevation was significantly related to woody species presence, and vine presence was significantly related to presence of woody structure, indicating an indirect association of the climbing species to elevation. Differing histories of management and development at the two sites have resulted in varying degrees of both topographic complexity and stability. Greater topographic complexity has resulted in similar species richness values for the two sites, despite the considerable difference in total area. Presumably, stabilization and prior management efforts at the Duck site have enabled a community assemblage comparable to that of the much larger Hog Island; however, the Duck site may be more vulnerable because of a decreased potential to migrate in response to continued sea level rise and storm impacts.