Sand Dunes

Dune Plant Habitats Study Area
Dune Plant Habitats Study Area

Sand dune plants compose a unique habitat that is rapidly being lost due to rising sea-levels and overdevelopment. The loss of this habitat in locations such as Galveston Island, Texas, is detrimental to both the natural environment (the rare Sea Oats and the endangered Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle) and the human environment (sand dune habitats protect houses and infrastructure from storm surges). A spatially-explicit understanding of sand dune plants, both their characteristics and their responses to sea-level rise, climate change, and development pressures, is key to preserving the habitat for generations to come.

The information and images presented here are from Feagin et al. 5 year study at Pirates Beach located on Galveston Island Texas.

The site had four possible states, consisting of bareground (0), colonizer plants (1), soil binder plants (2), or competitive plants (3). Because sand dune succession is based on facilitation by adjacent plants, as well as the amelioration of environmental constraints by previous successional stages, each state represented one step in the successional sequence. For example, the site could start as bareground and move through the three subsequent successional stages if an adequate number of other plants were growing in adjacent locations. The relative effect of a site upon an adjacent site, through facilitation, was based on proximity, as detailed in Feagin et al. (2005) and Feagin et al. (2007).

CSWGCIN Sand Dune Resources
Showing 3 Results
CollapseCoastal erosion, global sea-level rise, and the loss of sand dune plant habitats
Description: From text: "Much of America’s coastline is threatened by overdevelopment and coastal erosion, driven by global sea-level rise, a problem that is attracting the attention of researchers around the world. Although we have now acknowledged the impending risks, little is known about the response of spatially dependent dune plant communities to the loss or restriction of their habitat. In order to study this development, a spatially explicit model of sand dune plant succession on Galveston Island, Texas, was created, using sea-level rise as the primary mechanism causing local erosion. Simulations of sea-level rise scenarios developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change demonstrated that beach erosion constrained plants to a narrow area, resulting in a breakdown of the successional process. The loss of late-succession plants along coastlines, their dependent faunal species, and possible solutions are discussed. This model and example serves as a harbinger of the future for many of the US's sandy beaches and coastal communities."
Resource Type: Case Studies
Resource Format: PDF
Publisher: The Ecological Society of America
ExpandSqueezing out Dune Plants
ExpandThe Spatial Patterns of Functional Groups and Successional Direction in a Coastal Dune Community

Camphor Daisy Species Spotlight

Camphor daisy
Photo courtesy of Greg Wieland

Camphor daisy
Rayjacksonia phyllocephala

Description: Aromatic herb covered with a sticky sap (camphor smell when leaves are crushed). Elongate succulent leaves with oval end, usually 5-8 teeth at base of leaves. Many showy yellow flowers on entire plant.

Habitat: Leeward slopes of dunes, sandy areas behind dunes, vegetation-stabilized sands and flats. Often colonizes far out on beach when sand is accumulating

Distribution: Texas and Louisiana coast

Status: Annual plant that colonizes loose sand but not usually managed

Goat Foot Morning Glory Species Spotlight

Goat foot morning glory

Goat foot morning glory, Railroad vine
Ipomoea pes-caprae

Description: Creeping vine with leathery, broad leaves notched at apex rooting at nodes and not twinning. Flowers are showy, rose or purple colored, tubular bell shaped on the stems which lie directly on the sand and can extend out 90 ft in length. Roots emerge at numerous nodes along the stem and anchor the plant to the substratum. Survival from burial depends on length of stem that leaves exposed leaves.

Habitat: Back beach near dunes, windward and leeward slopes of dunes

Distribution: Coast of Gulf of Mexico

Status: Excellent soil binder for dunes. Vehicle traffic needs to be kept off these plants. Also of ornamental value

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