The Value of Dune Vegetation

No dune restoration project is truly complete without the replenishment of native vegetation. Native plants not only anchor sand in place, reducing erosion by wind and—to a lesser degree—waves; but they also trap wind-blown sand, thereby “growing” larger dunes. The reintroduction of native vegetation helps to restore the beach/dune ecosystem.

Moreover, and of particular importance in Brevard County, native dune shrubs and grasses serve as a visual barrier for nesting marine turtles: an indication to mother turtles that their landward journey has ended and the time for nest digging has come. Without such visual barriers, nesting turtles stand a higher risk of venturing onto A1A, a fortunately rare occurrence; but one not to be lightly dismissed.

Native dune vegetation used in previous dune reconstruction projects by Brevard County has included the following species:

In addition to being indigenous to Brevard County's dunes, these plants share several other characteristics. All are relatively short, so none will block views of the beach. All are moderate- to fast-growing, an important factor in establishing a mature vegetative community on the dunes given the recent frequency of our coastal storms. And when properly handled and installed, all have been observed to establish quickly after successfully enduring the transitional shock of transplantation from nursery containers to the dune environment.

It is particularly important that the young plants not suffer from foot traffic. Foot traffic damages dune plants, and habitual foot traffic kills them. Once the plants are gone, the chances of dune erosion are greatly enhanced, even from relatively mild weather.