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

uly but nesting peaks during May and June. Females typically nest at the base of dunes or within the dune complex, according to Dr. Andr Landry, AgriLife Research marine ecologist and director of the Sea Turtle and Fisheries Ecology Research Laboratory at Texas A&M University at Galveston.

One of Feagin's dune projects - planting of sea oats at Galveston State Park - was totally decimated by Ike. Sea oats, which used to be prevalent on the island, had been eliminated first from overstocking of cattle decades ago and then from building and infrastructure construction, said Feagin.

In the next element of the island, certainly many homes and buildings were damaged, and plants there look "toasted" by salt water, he said.

But the final section the salt marshes had measurable damage, as Feagin's ecosystem research shows.

"A salt marsh is normally a fairly nice protected area that benefits from a hurricane because all that sediment gets blown out from the beach, dunes and upland is deposited in the marsh," Feagin said. "But our research on the backside of Galveston where the surge was around 12 feet shows it lost elevation. The marshes need to maintain a fairly shallow water depth to support their unique ecosystem. And sea levels have been rising, so sediment is needed to maintain the depth.

"The sediment accumulation didn't happen. In fact, at our research site, elevation dropped at about same rate as under everyday conditions."

Feagin believes this could be because all the development between Gulf side and marsh side kept the sediment from arriving.

"There was not any sediment addition in the salt marsh, which is not good," he said, noting that a lack of rain since Ike and the influx of a higher concentration of salt water means that many of the marshes are parched. "Marshes are among the most productive ecosystems in the world. They are full of organic materials, detritus algae and plants. Gulf crab, shrim
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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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