Sand dunes are a common sight along the beach. Some people love them, and some simply find them an annoyance in getting to the beach. Whether you enjoy exploring them or not, these mounds form when sediment is carried by the elements and are an important aspect of the shoreline. Many plants and animals live in the dunes, and some species cannot live anywhere else. They also help protect inland areas from wind, waves, and severe storms.
Dunes in Danger
We usually think of dunes as a solid natural structure, but they are at risk due to the shifting nature of sand. Most physical forces can move the sand, including wind, water, construction equipment, and even your feet. Dune plants provide natural preservation by holding the sand in place with their roots and by absorbing water, which helps to hold the sand as well as trap additional sand. Construction on or around the dunes can weaken those roots, however, and increase erosion risk. Beachgoers can inadvertently do the same just by walking over the sand, but driving, littering, and building too close can also create problems for plants or dislodge the sand.
People can have a negative effect on dunes, but nature itself can be a problem. Storms – especially hurricanes – and climate change are factors in destroying the dune ecosystem. While there isn’t much people can do to prevent high winds and waves from washing away the sand, there are ways that we can help protect the dunes.
Dune Restoration and Preservation
Many conservation groups are dedicated to preserving dunes and restoring them when possible. Some work to rebuild dunes or replant native species that can help protect the dune ecosystem. Restoration, while a worthwhile goal, is difficult.
It is easier to work towards preserving the dunes we have. Just as with any other ecosystem, the simplest way you can help is to avoid littering and walk on the dunes as little as possible. Look for beach cleanups and other ways you can volunteer to help maintain the beaches in your area.
One way that Nature Bridges helps to preserve dunes is with boardwalk construction. These dune crossovers do more than just keep us from sliding in the sand. Boardwalk pathways provide a trail that helps keep our feet away from the fragile plants and animals. Sand fences are also an effective way to keep the dunes in place.
When planning any type of boardwalk walkway or structure, it is important to remember the goal: preserve instead of harm. If you are thinking of adding a dune crossover to your property, carefully select a builder who is well-versed in effectively building near dunes while protecting the environment. The top down construction method that we use at Nature Bridges allows us to build boardwalk structures while preserving the delicate natural habitats. You will be left with a graceful, durable structure that mirrors the environment itself.