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Posts Tagged ‘coastal sand dunes’

Weekly Photo Challenge: Delicate

Posted by Jody on December 14, 2012

Delicate Coastal Sand Dunes

Delicate Coastal Sand Dunes

What threatens coastal sand dunes?

Coastal sand dune systems are highly vulnerable to disturbance by trampling. Pedestrians and motor vehicles can compact the sand and crush vegetation; for example, Native Dune Grass dies when its roots are crushed. Without the stabilizing vegetation, the sand is blown away and dunes disappear. This can leave the shoreline more prone to damage from storm surges.

Invasive species are a major concern for the ecology of sand dunes. Scotch Broom and European Beachgrass are two common examples. Because they are not native to the region, they often have no natural predators or other controls. Therefore, invasive species can create dense monocultures that crowd out other species. As they did not evolve along with all the other species in the area, they provide limited habitat values. Some invasive species are so well-established that their eradication is not feasible without substantial cost and effort.

Sand dunes can be destroyed when structures are built too close to the shoreline. As the coastline naturally erodes, these structures become threatened, and people often respond by building “protective” reinforcements such as seawalls. This can further degrade the beach habitat, and even distant seawalls can starve downdrift beaches of sediment (see also coastal sediment processes and altered shorelines).

Dune habitats are often affected by alteration of shorelines in other areas. For example, bluffs composed of glacial till provide sediment that is eroded by waves and transported by longshore currents to the sand dune beach, where it is deposited. If the bluffs are armoured to prevent erosion, with cement or rock, this sediment supply is cut off and the beach is gradually depleted of sand.

How can I help protect coastal sand dunes?

When walking on beaches with sand dunes, try to stay on the seaward side of the dunes, where the sand has been compacted by the tides. Stay on marked or established trails or boardwalks, when walking through dune vegetation, and observe signs.

Keep dogs under control and don’t let them dig in dunes or chase wildlife.

Plant native vegetation along your shoreline property, to help prevent erosion and increase wildlife habitat. Learn about other options for reducing erosion that use natural shoreline development techniques instead of hard structures.

Leave driftwood in place, rather than “cleaning up” the beach. Logs help to stabilize sand dunes, and provide hiding places for wildlife.

Get involved with a local community stewardship group that works to protect and restore sand dunes.

See other tips to help protect shorelines in general.

(Source: Capital Regional District)

We can all make a difference when it comes to the protection and preservation of our delicate coastal sand dune ecosystems. One for all and all for fun!

Have a great day at the beach!

This week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge theme is “Delicate.”


Posted in Beach and Coastal Wildlife, Sand and Shoreline | Tagged: , , , , | 9 Comments »

Dune Not Disturb: Protecting Our Coastal Sand Dunes the Easy Way

Posted by Jody on September 5, 2012

Help protect our fragile coastal sand dunes.

Coastal sand dune protection is serious business, and it’s no wonder why. Beaches and coastal dunes are essential components of the ever changing environment in which sand is continually exchanged and rearranged. Coastal sand dunes are areas of considerable biological diversity, and, according to the Texas General Land Office, “As a resilient natural barrier to the destructive forces of wind and waves, sand dunes are the least expensive and most efficient defense against storm-surge flooding and beach erosion. Dunes absorb the impact of storm surge and high waves, preventing or delaying intrusion of waters into inland areas. Dunes hold sand that replaces eroded beaches after storms and buffer windblown sand and salt spray.”

Coastal Sand Dunes

What is the best way for beach-goers to help protect and preserve our fragile coastal dune systems?  We simply use the dune walkover structures and/or enter the beach from designated entry points. No kidding. It’s that easy!

Coastal Sand Dune Walkover

Are you interested in the coastal sand dune environment? The State of Texas has a wonderful resource, jam-packed with information on the preservation and restoration of coastal sand dunes. You can download the free educational handbook here: The Dune Protection and Improvement Manual.

Have a dune-friendly day at the beach!

Posted in Beach and Coastal Wildlife, Sand and Shoreline | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

For the Beach Botanist: Marram Grass

Posted by alainaflute on August 22, 2012

Marram Grass, Holkham Nature Reserve, England                                                                                  (Evelyn Simak/Geograph Project/Wikimedia Commons)

Sand is associated with time slipping away, things that can’t be grasped, and the impermanence of all things…not exactly prime real estate. I’ll move in on Friday!

It’s amazing how many forms of life can call the beach home. With its ever changing tide and features, animals still come and go, and plants cling to the shore, popping out of rocks and shooting up from the sandy dunes. I don’t always stop to think about how cool it is when grass or trees pop up on the beach, but it really is amazing! Here is one such plant I discovered whilst browsing a “Beach” subject search on World Book Advanced: 

Marram grass has long, narrow, pale-green leaves. It grows in dense clumps on sandy beaches and coastal sand dunes. The clumps can be over 3 feet (1 meter) high.

Marram grass is a xerophyte—that is, a plant adapted to life in dry surroundings. Its roots can grow over 20 feet (6 meters) long to reach water deep beneath the surface. It can also curl its leaves to reduce the amount of water evaporating from them.

Marram grass grows from a network of branching underground stems called rhizomes. The rhizomes and long roots anchor the grass to the sand and stabilize sand dunes. The grass acts as a windbreak and windblown sand collects around it. This makes the sand dunes grow bigger and extends the land seaward.

Marram grass is native to Europe and is sometimes called European beach grass. It has been planted in America and Australia to stabilize sand dunes. Its leaves are sometimes used for making baskets, brooms, mats, and thatch.

Marram grass belongs to the grass family, Gramineae (Poaceae). It is Ammophila arenaria.”

“Marram grass.” World Book Advanced. World Book, 2012. Web.  1 Aug. 2012.

Marram Grass at Laggan Bay, Scotland. Marram grass is important in holding the dunes in place. (Mary and Angus Hogg/Geograph Project/Wikimedia Commons)

This tenacious and helpful dune grass overlooks some of the most stunning views the world has to offer. I can almost hear it blowing in the cool ocean breezes, inviting me to flip off my shoes to stroll past the dunes and down to the beach.

There’s even a works cited up there! Don’t you feel like you’re back in school? Well, shake off that feeling, rub in some sunscreen, and go ponder the meaning of existence (or not) on your beach towel.

“Our best built certainties are but sand-houses

and subject to damage from any wind of doubt that blows.” – Mark Twain.

Posted in Beach and Coastal Wildlife, Sand and Shoreline | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Ice Plants: Not so Cool

Posted by Jody on June 13, 2012

I always thought that the striking, colorful ice plants that grow so profusely along the dunes and on the rocky bluffs of California’s Pacific coastline were native to the Golden State. Was I ever wrong!  I do still think they are absolutely striking, but now I know that they are definitely not native. In fact, ice plants (Carpobrotus edulis) were intentionally brought to California from South Africa in the early 1900s to stabilize the coastal sands and help control erosion.

Well, you know what they say about the “best laid plans.”  They often go awry.

The Invasive Ice Plant, North Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore, California

Ice plants are  mat-forming perennials.  They have very thick, triangularly shaped, smooth and fleshy leaves with pretty yellow or pink flowers. Once intended to maintain the stability the coastal dunes, these rapidly spreading, non-native succulents are now recognized as an invasive species. Growing year round, a single ice plant shoot segment can grow up to three feet in one year, threatening the delicate ecosystem and unique environment of California’s coastal dunes.

Ice Plants on the Dunes of North Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore, California

The colorful blankets of ice plants squeeze out indigenous plants, and native dune vegetation has to compete for nutrients, space, water and sunlight. In some areas ice plants have completely taken over, preventing  the native flora from thriving and slowing the natural process of dune migration.

As the late, great Johnny Carson used to say, “I did not know that.”

Beautiful North Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore, California

So now, at Point Reyes National Seashore in Northern California, Coastal Dune Habitat Restoration Projects are taking place to remove both the non-native invasive European beachgrass and the ice plant from coastal dune habitats to “restore natural dune processes and function.”  Would you like to know more? There is a very thorough article on the National Park Service website entitled “Coastal Dune Habitat Restoration Project: Why is Dune Restoration Important?” It is long, but it covers everything you might want to know on the topic, and so much more. It’s very interesting reading!

By golly, ya really do learn something new everyday!

Suggestions? Tips? Comments?  Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment space below!

Posted in Beach and Coastal Wildlife, Beach Flora, Northern California Beaches, Sand and Shoreline | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

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