Soil and vegetation patterns in barrier-island dune environments

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Plant species distributions often have been attributed to landform characteristics or their associated geomorphic processes. This complicates interpretation of vegetation patterns in that geomorphic processes shape, and are shaped by, landforms. To characterize the biogeographic impacts of this interaction, I used principal components analysis (PCA) to examine hypotheses regarding the structure of variation among soil properties in active barrier-island dune systems. Dune soils and vegetation were sampled on two well-recognized barrier-island morphologies. On low-profile, wave-dominated microtidal barrier islands (South Core Banks, North Carolina) frequent overwash exerts a greater control on the distribution of soil properties. On mixed-energy mesotidal barrier islands (Sapelo Island, Georgia), overwash is less frequent, and the distribution of soil properties is shaped by a complex dune topography. Nontrivial principal components on both islands captured an equivalent amount of variance in the soil data. However, there were inter-island differences in the dimensionality of these nontrivial principal components, and differences in the distribution of variance and factor loadings. Suites of topography-modifying species, unique to each island, were uniform in the strength of their individual correlation with local edaphic variability. I posit that soil variance structure is a useful criterion to distinguish the relative influence on vegetation patterns of soil properties expressed through landforms (Sapelo Island) versus sediment transport processes (South Core Banks).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-98
Number of pages20
JournalPhysical Geography
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments: Comments from Jake Bendix, Stacy Jorgensen, Al Parker, and an anonymous reviewer are greatly appreciated. I thank the Geomorphology Laboratory in the Department of Geography at the University of Georgia for use of their facilities. Generous logistical support was provided by the staff at Cape Lookout National Seashore and the University of Georgia Marine Institute. Scott Kiss-man, Amanda Wrona, Jenny Cruse, and John Rodgers were invaluable in the field and in the lab. This study was funded by a NSF Geography and Regional Science Doctoral Dissertation Research Grant (No. 9811349).


  • Barrier islands
  • Dune vegetation
  • Overwash
  • Principal components analysis (PCA)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Soil and vegetation patterns in barrier-island dune environments'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this