Long Beach Island — Each fall on Long Beach Island, local stewards – from families and neighbors to school groups and scouts – can be seen planting beachgrass on the dunes, to strengthen this first line of defense against storm-riled ocean waters. LBI municipalities typically receive dune grass in October and announce to residents that it’s available for them to pick up and plant. Many towns still have a supply, so be sure to check with your community, and help bolster the Island’s dunes.
“We need every root in the ground we can get,” said Angela Andersen, sustainability coordinator for Long Beach Township.
David Werner, a science instructor at the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science in Manahawkin and at Stockton University, connected with Andersen last month for dune grass, and had his MATES and Stockton students plant in the Brant Beach and Beach Haven Crest sections of the township.
“My MATES biology and oceanography students pulled out all of the dead dune grass and then replanted from 46th to 47th street” in Brant Beach, Werner explained. “My Stockton students filled in areas on Surf Avenue. This is part of the service learning aspect of my Stockton University class, ‘The Science of Forecasting Waves.’”
“I try to implement dune grass planting every semester to provide the students with a unique opportunity,” Werner noted. “The students really enjoy making a positive impact on the local environment.”
As noted in the N.J. Sea Grant Consortium’s Dune Manual, developed in partnership with Stevens Institute of Technology, the U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Resources Conservation Service, Cape May Plant Materials Center, Georgian Court University and William Paterson University, “Sand dunes are important coastal features that provide a variety of ecosystem services, such as habitat for coastal species and protection for infrastructure and communities landward of them.”
The purpose of the manual, online at njseagrant.org/dunemanual, “is to educate communities about dunes in the wake of natural disasters, sea level rise and storm surge by providing background information on the coastal ecosystems, their processes and how they can mitigate the impacts of coastal storms.”
In addition, the manual helps users make informed decisions “on coastal resilience by incorporating beach and dune dynamics with suitable plantings,” identifying the variety of plant species for restoration plantings in New Jersey dune ecosystems, and best planting practices, as well as the science behind the plant species.
“I am pleased to see the increased amount of a childhood favorite – ‘old school’ seaside goldenrod – on dunes and beach entrances, but also in people’s yards,” Andersen remarked. “It’s a beautiful ground stabilizer to add in with beach grass, and critical habitat for pollinators.
“Long Beach Township has given out thousands of goldenrod plugs over the past five years through the Pollinator Potluck and Honey Harvest, held annually in September at the LBI Foundation in Loveladies,” she pointed out.
“People get goldenrod confused with ragweed as their allergen producer,” Andersen added, “but ragweed is an airborne pollinator and goldenrod is sticky and needs a pollinator to transport pollen.”
As the NJSGC emphasizes, a mix of species is important in dune stabilization and ecosystem function.
Following Superstorm Sandy, which destroyed much of the Island’s dune system, the township established the Dune Revegetation Project, purchasing and distributing more than 5,000 plants – including American beach grass, bayberry, rugosa rose and beach plum – to help restore the dunes. Homeowners in Holgate even undertook a comprehensive planting with a landscape architect on hand, funded through Save Barnegat Bay, to ensure they were fostering the best dunes possible.
As the NJSGC points out, dune modification in the state is regulated by the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection. Individuals and communities are encouraged to contact the NJDEP prior to commencing any projects intended to create or modify an existing dune. Care must also be exercised – in coordination with the Endangered and Non-Game Species Program, as well as Fish and Wildlife Service representatives – to ensure that proposed activities do not degrade habitats for rare, threatened or endangered species.