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Dune and dirty: Hurricane teaches lessons through ecosystem research
Date:12/8/2008

ate animals are gone because they are not able to live in the clay.

That will impact other animals in the food chain, such as birds that previously fed on the small creatures.

Further inland come the sand dunes.

"The dunes are a little higher than the beach and some do OK," he said. "But basically water is forced through existing holes in dunes causing them blow out. Our dunes have problems because of over development, so that could make it difficult for sand dunes to re-establish."

Feagin said the sand dunes in the area hit by Hurricane Ike were already eroding at a rate of several feet per year. The natural mending of washed-out beaches might not be possible because of the many structures and non-native landscapes maintained there, blocking dune re-establishment.

He explained that sand dunes need plants to accumulate sand from passing winds. Many of these plants are actually stimulated to grow as they become buried by sand, resulting in the deposit of another layer of sand until a larger, land-sustaining dune is "born." But if a lawn is maintained where a dune used to be, the layers will never be allowed to rebuild and thus no dune will exist to provide some measure of protection in the future.

"Dunes can protect buildings to some degree in the smaller storms that are more common in the area," Feagin said. "Plus the location of vegetation and dunes in Texas is where many legal battles play out for public versus private property issues.

"We care about dunes because we want our public beaches," he added. "And if a private house has been built and there is now no dune in front of it, then that house is now on our public land and may block our access to this extremely valuable tourism resource. "

Beyond these legal issues, he added, the dunes also support animals such as Kemp's Ridley sea turtles, which are endangered.

The sea turtles' nesting season in Texas runs from April through mid-J
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Contact: Kathleen Phillips
ka-phillips@tamu.edu
979-845-2872
Texas A&M AgriLife Communications
Source:Eurekalert  

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