What you’ll see in the dunes

by Kristine Bunker (MIT, 2014)


Heading out to the beach for the holiday weekend?  Two weeks ago, we put out a list of beaches in Massachusetts with good access to coastal hiking.  Whether you’re heading to one of those beaches or plan on taking a stroll at your own favorite beach, here’s a little primer on what you might see.  There are a number of very important coastal habitats surrounding beaches.  Here we focus on dunes.

A dune is a hill of sand formed by aeolian (wind-driven) processes.  Many coastal areas have dunes running parallel to the shoreline which are extremely important in protecting upland habitat and developed areas from the erosive capabilities of waves and flooding during severe storms.

Some dunes are formed where constructive waves result in the accumulation of sand along the shoreline; this is then blown inland by the prevailing winds to create the dune.  Dunes in New England are composed of fine grained sands derived from the erosion of larger rocks or from glacial outwash plains, making them well-drained and often dry.  Rotting seaweed, brought in by storm waves adds nutrients that assist pioneer species such as American beachgrass in colonizing the dune.

Keep an eye out for these flora and fauna in the dunes, and remember – dunes are fragile environments and nesting sites for endangered shorebirds – don’t walk on the dune!

This entry was posted in beaches, environment, favorite New England beaches photo contest, habitat, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to What you’ll see in the dunes

  1. Nice article, Christine. Thanks.

  2. Pingback: What you’ll see in a salt marsh | 2Fathom

  3. Pingback: Announcing the Winner – Favorite New England Beach Photo Contest | 2Fathom

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