Term of Award

Fall 2012

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biology (M.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Department

Department of Biology

Committee Chair

C. Ray Chandler

Committee Member 1

Stephen Vives

Committee Member 2

Lissa Leege

Committee Member 3

Lissa Leege

Abstract

Cumberland Island is the southernmost barrier island off the coast of Georgia. Its freshwater wetlands are an important, rare habitat to have on a barrier island surrounded by saltmarsh and ocean. Many species of birds require freshwater wetlands as feeding, roosting and nesting grounds. However, the freshwater wetlands on Cumberland Island have been impacted by humans for centuries causing birds to abandon their historic nesting ground. Known land use histories of Cumberland Island's freshwater wetlands were gathered to try and determine how the wetlands changed over time Wetlands were analyzed for presence of wetland-dependent birds and recorded. Thirty-six species of birds from 10 orders and 15 families were identified using the freshwater wetland habitat. The highest bird abundance and species richness is seen, in order, at Plum Orchard, Lake Whitney, Hickory Hill Pond, and the North Swamp Fields. Wood Storks, Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets and Blackcrowned Night Herons were the species most frequently seen on the island. Rainfall was 24.7 cm below the 100 year average during the study, making water presence a determining factor in bird abundance. Habitat diversity, taken from the aerial maps also had an influence on bird abundance. Management recommendations should be made for restoration efforts of specific wetlands based on the species of birds that frequent the island.

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