A powerful combination: Dunes + beach grass + bayberry + , et al - story starts w today's Philadelphia Inquirer

10 months ago
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10 months ago
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Thanks to my great grandmother, who migrated from County Cork in Ireland, to being a maid on Philadelphia's Main, Line saving until she could buy a bungalow near the seashore which she said reminded her of her girlhood on the Irish coast - I grew up spending my summers at Cape May Point. ##OurAmazingWorld

In a longer piece, I will go into the Point, how it became a world-renowned Bird Sanctuary, how they lost - and then rebuilt their dunes, there will be a steady stream.

But today's post begins with this article in today's Inquirer:


It's the story of how experts and volunteers are working to rebuild the dunes and protect the land all up and down the Jersey Coast.  ##EIRecommends

This from the article:

  • As the beach grass grows, its roots - called rhizomes - form a weave within the sand which in turn forms a core for the dune.  The blades of the grass on top of the surface also act to trap windblown sand, allowing the dune to retain the sand and grow naturally.

I have seen this first hand in Cape May Point.

When I was a kid, we were free to roam the dunes. As a young teen, that became forbidden, the dues restricted. I was affronted at the time!

But by now, I'm glad!

The dunes at the Point are, maybe, 100 yards wide at their widest? They run for maybe a mile along the Atlantic side of the town. They are lush, gorgeous, and a delight to fellow creatures ranging from the bunny, to the Autumn passing hawks, to the Monarch Butterflies who can swarm there.

A point I want to make is about the power of diversity there. The Inquirer article rightly sings the praises of the American beach grass - which is prevalent along Cape May Point's dunes, but those dunes also provide a home to scrub pine, bird-friendly poison ivy, golden rod, bay berry, beach plumb - to name just a few.

With this diversity, the resiliency of those dunes is greatly amplified.

A tip o the cap to Jacqueline Urgo, who covers the Jersey Shore for the Inquirer | @JacquelineUrgo    Thanks Jacqueline!


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Anna L Beale's picture

Reported in the article:

"In the immediate aftermath of Sandy, Charbonneau ( researching the dunes) found - to her surprise - that an invasive species of beach grass called Carex kobomugi, or Asiatic sand sedge, that park managers had been trying to eradicate at Island Beach for decades seemed to better hold the dunes together.  Across the park, approximately three meters more dune was lost in native grass stands compared with areas with the invasive species, Charbonneau said."

A study in Britain confirms and elaborates on this:

"Plants are commonly listed as invasive species, presuming that they cause harm at both global and regional scales. Approximately 40% of all species listed as invasive within Britain are plants. However, invasive plants are rarely linked to the national or global extinction of native plant species. The possible explanation is that competitive exclusion takes place slowly and that invasive plants will eventually eliminate native species (the “time-to-exclusion hypothesis”). Using the extensive British Countryside Survey Data, we find that changes to plant occurrence and cover between 1990 and 2007 at 479 British sites do not differ between native and non-native plant species. More than 80% of the plant species that are widespread enough to be sampled are native species; hence, total cover changes have been dominated by native species ; total cover increases by native species are more than nine times greater than those by non-native species). This implies that factors other than plant “invasions” are the key drivers of vegetation change. We also find that the diversity of native species is increasing in locations where the diversity of non-native species is increasing, suggesting that high diversities of native and non-native plant species are compatible with one another. 


That reminded me of noted herbalist Stephen Buhner's observation:

"Regarding "invasive plants" . . .

I often jokingly comment that while Republicans (conservatives) hate human immigrants, democrats (liberals) hate plant immigrants. Both apparently afraid of how the "other" is going to destroy our way of life. The attacks on "invasive" plants are generally done with little knowledge of the  processes involved in plant movement dynamics or the ecological functions such plant population alterations perform, especially that of healing human-caused ecological damage in local ecosystems, including that of our bodies."

So perhaps once again the natural world has wisdom for us, as we choose to listen. Or we could say that if we acknowledge the ideal way of science - unbiassed observation-  much may be shown to us that is beyond and better than our limited preconceptions.

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RobertLeming's picture

Hey Anna,

You comment is an eye opener. I have heard so much about native wildlife (right down to the bugs!) and native plants having developed a symbiotic relationahsip over many years - "invasive's" ("immigrant's") leaves being undisturbed - since they are not digestible here ...

But maybe still, these travelers can have valuable roles to play, as demonstrated by the Asiatic sand sedge's prowess as a dune keeper?

I know we are both fans of, and at lease a little informed by Doug Talamy, the author of Bringing Nature Home - "How you can sustain Wildlife w Native Plants"

And Stephen Buhner truly is a noted Herbalist. I know you have been following his work with a keen interest:


Would be fun to hear a conversation between these two, right?

Maybe post a podcast? 

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