you're reading...

Book Review

Summiting Sand Dune Crests: A challenge of restoration

Teixeira, L. H., Weisser, W., & Ganade, G. (2016). Facilitation and sand burial affect plant survival during restoration of a tropical coastal sand dune degraded by tourist cars. Restoration Ecology. doi:10.1111/rec.12327


“Buggues em Genipabu” Photo taken by Leandro Neumann Ciuffo, Brazil, 2010; https://www.flickr.com/photos/leandrociuffo/

The setting: The sun is shining as you’re obviously headed to the beach for an afternoon of fun now that it’s spring break. Someone suggests taking a drive in a dune buggy and you readily agree—sounds like it could be a blast. You wouldn’t be alone in taking a spin in one of these cars, but have you ever stopped to consider what kind of an impact those tires have on the fragile ecosystem supported by sand dunes?

Coastal dunes are incredibly important features along beaches, providing vital ecosystem services that range from buffering against storms to being economic drivers in the tourism industry. Unfortunately, dunes are also delicate microclimates that often prove very difficult to restore once damaged. Dune ecosystems in temperate zones have received more attention from conservationists, but comparatively little work has been done on dunes in tropical areas; this is often attributed to the harsher conditions and the constant reshaping of dunes by winds. Therefore, Leonardo Teixeira and colleagues set out to study and improve restoration techniques in northeastern Brazil, where dune buggy tourism is a critical part of the local economy.


“Dunas de Genipabu” Photo taken by rvcroffi, Brazil, 2012: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rvc/

In particular, Teixeira’s team wanted to answer four specific questions:

  • Can existing patches of vegetation be used to increase seedling survival in restoration efforts?
  • Will seedlings survive equally well in an artificial substitute for existing vegetation?
  • Are seeds a better, more economical approach to restoration?
    and finally,
  • Does early watering of seedlings enhance survival?


The method: To answer these main questions, Teixeira and his team conducted two separate experiments along plots of land in the Environmental Protected Area, Jenipabu. The model species selected for dune restoration was Canavalia maritima, a jack-bean plant.

For the first experiment, the team used a split-plot design (see Fig. 1), planting seedlings in areas within patches of vegetation or outside existing patches and with or without an artificial mesh (here, a coconut fiber mesh). Survival of seedlings was monitored over the course of three months during which measurements of abiotic factors were also recorded. Specifically, the scientists were measuring air humidity, soil surface temperature, soil temperature at a depth of 10 cm, and the amount of sand burial occurring around seedlings.

Fig. 1: Split blocks were designed with subplots in different areas. Subplots were planted with the same number of seedlings, but had coconut mesh inserted to test if growth was better facilitated.

Fig. 1: Split blocks were designed with subplots in different areas. Subplots were planted with the same number of seedlings, but had coconut mesh inserted to test if growth was better facilitated.

For the second experiment, a similar design was used, except this time seeds and seedling survival were measured, planting both in areas far from existing vegetation. This was to assess the potential to increase vegetation cover in previously barren areas. The same coconut mesh was used in half of the plots, and half of the plots also received additional water to properly irrigate the seeds and seedlings.


The end result: Teixeira and his team determined there were many factors that contributed to the long-term loss of vegetation caused by disrupting dune crests. Existing vegetation provided shade and extra humidity—things necessary for seeds to successfully germinate and grow. Indeed, the best survival rates were seen in seedlings growing in patches of existing vegetation. And while the coconut mesh did increase survival of seedlings, it wasn’t nearly as effective as live plants. When comparing seeds to seedling survival, the team found that field conditions could favor seeds if they were scarified (partially cut open) before planting, which allowed for faster germination.

The critical problem, in all scenarios though, was sand burial. Seeds buried too deeply would not germinate, and seedlings could also suffer a similar fate if the moving sand rapidly engulfed them. Repeated disturbing of soil by dune buggies can loosen sand further, and without vegetation to hold it in place, the abundant sand grains become increasingly mobile.


The moral of this beach read: Overall, the team concluded that protecting existing vegetation should be the first step in minimizing both the problem and long-term restoration efforts. Ironically, although the study was conducted in an environmentally protected area, the shifting of the dunes caused fence markers to be buried, and dune buggies would often come barreling through while the field team was collecting data. While this would suggest that stronger enforcement policies are needed, the authors also stressed the need for increasing environmental education and awareness.

And that is where you, our audience, come in. By all means, go out and have fun on your trips to the beach. Just remember that there are small biomes out there vital to the continued survival of coastlines everywhere. While you’re thinking about it, do you have any other suggestions for how to increase awareness about vulnerable or fragile environments people often take for granted?


No comments yet.

Post a Comment


  • by oceanbites 2 months ago
    Happy Earth Day! Take some time today to do something for the planet and appreciate the ocean, which covers 71% of the Earth’s surface.  #EarthDay   #OceanAppreciation   #Oceanbites   #CoastalVibes   #CoastalRI 
  • by oceanbites 3 months ago
    Not all outdoor science is fieldwork. Some of the best days in the lab can be setting up experiments, especially when you get to do it outdoors. It’s an exciting mix of problem solving, precision, preparation, and teamwork. Here is
  • by oceanbites 4 months ago
    Being on a research cruise is a unique experience with the open water, 12-hour working shifts, and close quarters, but there are some familiar practices too. Here Diana is filtering seawater to gather chlorophyll for analysis, the same process on
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #oceanbites  we are featuring Hannah Collins  @hannahh_irene  Hannah works with marine suspension feeding bivalves and microplastics, investigating whether ingesting microplastics causes changes to the gut microbial community or gut tissues. She hopes to keep working
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    Leveling up - did you know that crabs have a larval phase? These are both porcelain crabs, but the one on the right is the earlier stage. It’s massive spine makes it both difficult to eat and quite conspicuous in
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Cierra Braga. Cierra works ultraviolet c (UVC) to discover how this light can be used to combat biofouling, or the growth of living things, on the hulls of ships. Here, you
  • by oceanbites 6 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Elena Gadoutsis  @haysailor  These photos feature her “favorite marine research so far: From surveying tropical coral reefs, photographing dolphins and whales, and growing my own algae to expose it to different
  • by oceanbites 6 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on Oceanbites we are featuring Eliza Oldach. According to Ellie, “I study coastal communities, and try to understand the policies and decisions and interactions and adaptations that communities use to navigate an ever-changing world. Most of
  • by oceanbites 6 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Jiwoon Park with a little photographic help from Ryan Tabata at the University of Hawaii. When asked about her research, Jiwoon wrote “Just like we need vitamins and minerals to stay
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #Oceanbites  we are featuring  @riley_henning  According to Riley, ”I am interested in studying small things that make a big impact in the ocean. Right now for my master's research at the University of San Diego,
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Gabby Stedman. Gabby is interested in interested in understanding how many species of small-bodied animals there are in the deep-sea and where they live so we can better protect them from
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Shawn Wang! Shawn is “an oceanographer that studies ocean conditions of the past. I use everything from microfossils to complex computer models to understand how climate has changed in the past
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    Today we are highlighting some of our awesome new authors for  #WriterWednesday  Today we have Daniel Speer! He says, “I am driven to investigate the interface of biology, chemistry, and physics, asking questions about how organisms or biological systems respond
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    Here at Oceanbites we love long-term datasets. So much happens in the ocean that sometimes it can be hard to tell if a trend is a part of a natural cycle or actually an anomaly, but as we gather more
  • by oceanbites 9 months ago
    Have you ever seen a lobster molt? Because lobsters have exoskeletons, every time they grow they have to climb out of their old shell, leaving them soft and vulnerable for a few days until their new shell hardens. Young, small
  • by oceanbites 9 months ago
    A lot of zooplankton are translucent, making it much easier to hide from predators. This juvenile mantis shrimp was almost impossible to spot floating in the water, but under a dissecting scope it’s features really come into view. See the
  • by oceanbites 9 months ago
    This is a clump of Dead Man’s Fingers, scientific name Codium fragile. It’s native to the Pacific Ocean and is invasive where I found it on the east coast of the US. It’s a bit velvety, and the coolest thing
  • by oceanbites 10 months ago
    You’ve probably heard of jellyfish, but have you heard of salps? These gelatinous sea creatures band together to form long chains, but they can also fall apart and will wash up onshore like tiny gemstones that squish. Have you seen
  • by oceanbites 11 months ago
    Check out what’s happening on a cool summer research cruise! On the  #neslter  summer transect cruise, we deployed a tow sled called the In Situ Icthyoplankton Imaging System. This can take pictures of gelatinous zooplankton (like jellyfish) that would be
  • by oceanbites 11 months ago
    Did you know horseshoe crabs have more than just two eyes? In these juveniles you can see another set in the middle of the shell. Check out our website to learn about some awesome horseshoe crab research.  #oceanbites   #plankton   #horseshoecrabs 
WP2Social Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com