Kiawah River Marsh East
Preserved: March 2018
Preserved: 1,150 acres
Preserved: Marsh East
Habitat Type: Hummock, High Marsh, Intertidal Marsh, Tidal Creek, and Salt Shrub Thicket
Conservation Value: The Marsh East tract is dominated by smooth cordgrass and is interspersed with mud flats, and natural oyster bars. It also includes some areas of high marsh that consists of sea oxeye, saltwort, black needlerush, slender glasswort, salt grass, salthay, and marsh fimbry. Open salt flats also occur that are sparsely vegetated with slender glasswort and salt grass. There are numerous tidal creeks that bisect the intertidal marsh that all stem from the main branch of the Kiawah River. Hummock islands are scattered throughout the intertidal marsh and are dominated by salt shrub thickets and/or maritime forests. Salt shrub thicket vegetation includes several of the high marsh plants as well as groundsel tree, yaupon holly, seaside goldenrod, saltwater false willow, sea lavender, and marsh elder. The forested portions of these hummocks include loblolly pine, cabbage palmetto, southern red cedar, live oak, wax myrtle, and greenbrier. In addition, the Marsh East tract includes an important ecotone fringe at the transition zone of the marsh and larger maritime forests of Kiawah Island.
The hummock, high marsh, intertidal marsh, tidal creek, and salt shrub thicket habitats found within the Marsh East tract support a variety of wildlife including wading birds, shorebirds, and furbearers as well as secretive marsh birds. The detrital cycle of the high and intertidal marsh produces decaying plant material, which serves as the basis of the estuarine food chain. Recreational and commercially important species supported by these marshes include shrimp, blue crab, oysters, and numerous fish species. The island hummocks are particularly important for neotropical songbird migrants as seasonal and stopover habitats. Additionally, the habitats within this tract have the potential to support a variety of rare and endangered species such as the clapper rail, yellow rail, white ibis, whimbrel, American oystercatcher, royal tern, little blue heron, wood stork, and American bittern, all of which are listed as “Highest Priority” species per the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources’ (SCDNR) Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy. Other priority species include the great egret, MacGillivray’s seaside sparrow, black-bellied plover, tricolored heron, brown pelican, willet, greater yellowlegs, bald eagle, semipalmated plover, snowy egret, Carolina chickadee, sora rail, spotted sandpiper, and great blue heron. In addition to being a “Highest Priority” species, the wood stork is also listed as a federally threatened species. Several federal At-Risk Species are listed for Charleston County and could occur within the habitats of the Marsh East tract. These include MacGillivray’s seaside sparrow, Monarch butterfly, Eastern diamondback rattlesnake, black rail, and Godfrey’s privet.