Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Going with the flow or against the grain? The promise of vegetation for protecting beaches, dunes, and barrier islands from erosion.

 Our latest barrier island review article was published in this month's issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment  http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/140218.  As part of the Coastal Barrier Island Network, we worked with an integrative group of coastal scientists including ecologists, engineers, and landscape remote sensing specialists to examine the role of vegetation for protecting coastlines.  Traditionally, coastline protection has been largely engineered to maintain structural stability and protect property.  However, we propose that ecological solutions can be mixed with engineering to create more resilient solutions as storms and sea-level pose threats to coastal stability.  Our article also made the front cover!
This summer we will continue with research investigating three dune building grasses: Ammophila breviligulata, Uniola paniculata, and Spartina patens.  Grad students Joe Brown and April Harris spent the last few weeks potting thousands of plants for greenhouse and field experiments.  Through a series of experiments they will determine species responses to salinity, drought, sand burial, and competition.  This work will contribute to our understanding of how different species shape barrier islands in response to climate change. 

April and Joe planting for greenhouse experiments.

Planting for field experiments on Hog Island, Virginia.  Winds were >20 mph that day, so we all received a free exfoliation.  The area was cleared of all vegetation prior to planting.  We will simulate overwash on one half of the plots to quantify how individual species respond to sand burial.