Coastal Hammock

Coastal Hammock

Georgia’s marsh hammocks provide a secluded sanctuary for wildlife, away from the coastal mainland that has become increasingly congested with development, traffic, and noise. Hammocks serve as roosting grounds for birds as they rest while feeding in the marsh. They also serve as nesting grounds for colonies of ibis, herons, wood storks and other colonial nesters. Through their behavior, the birds reveal that the marshland – including the hammocks – is a single habitat.

Georgia’s unique marsh hammocks are a subset of back barrier islands – areas of upland embedded in Georgia’s vast tidal marshes and ranging in size from less than one acre to over 1,000 acres. Approximately 1,200 hammocks comprising over 17,000 acres are now identified and mapped on the Georgia coast. Most marsh hammocks support maritime forests, a disappearing natural community. The Partners in Flight program, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service bird conservation initiative, has identified maritime forests as one of three priority habitats for conservation of migratory songbirds in the South Atlantic coastal region.

Many hammocks provide roosting and nesting areas for wading birds (including the endangered wood stork), as well as habitat for diamondback terrapins, and other wildlife. Although these general ecological attributes are recognized, no systematic biological surveys of Georgia’s marsh hammocks have been published, and there is little site-specific information about the ecological significance of hammocks. Georgia’s marsh hammocks are under increasing development pressure. Because of this pressure, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) established a Coastal Marsh Hammock Advisory Council and a subsequent stakeholder group to review issues associated with the development of marsh hammocks in coastal Georgia. Specifically, the advisory council was charged with identifying the ecological importance of marsh hammocks, evaluating the impact of their continued development, and recommending a range of solutions to mitigate the effects of development of coastal marsh hammocks.