Student Research Pages - Animal Beach Houses

Cover-Beach Tidings

 Sand Dunes

Sand dunes might just look like big 'ole lumps of sand to us, but for our beach animals they serve as important homes. So, as fun as it looks, please don't climb on the dunes, Dude!

Instead, let the plants do all the climbing. It's their job to stick their roots down and keep the wind from blowing the sand away and taking animal homes with it.

In Texas, we've worked very hard to make our sand dunes stronger by doing sand dune restoration. Why do we need to rebuild sand dunes? Or, do "sand dune restoration?"

Well...ever noticed how the wind always seems to blow at the beach? With the wind constantly swishing around, sand dunes erode easily.

What does "erode" mean?

EROSION = When something is worn away by wind or water.

Erosion isn't always bad, but when animals need sand dunes for their homes, too much erosion can be bad.

Sand Dunes

When plants grow on the dunes, their roots help keep the wind from carrying the sand away. The plants help keep the dunes from eroding. (Photo by Gabrielle Conley, © 2011.)

It used to be nature took care of its sand dunes by having enough plants grow on them, or by allowing icky looking seaweed or gunk from the ocean to pile up and create places for the sand to collect.

But too many people walked on the sand dunes too much and killed the plants that grew there and they thought the seaweed and other stuff looked ugly so they cleaned it from the beaches. Ugh oh!

The dunes need the plants to grow on them. Their roots help keep the sand from blowing away. The icky seaweed and other gunk that tides bring up to the dunes help keep the sand in piles.

People started realizing this and so they starting to restore the sand dunes. Do you know what they used at Galveston State Park to restore sand dunes? Old Christmas trees! That gave the sand something to pile against and gather around.

Here are some plants that grow in the sand and on sand dunes:

Grass Beach

People started realizing that nature has many, many uses for that "ugly" seaweed and one of them is to help make the dunes more secure. (Photo by Gabrielle Conley, © 2011.)

Sea Oats

Sea oats handle harsh beach conditions like constant saltwater spray and little fresh water really well! See how sea oats help keep the dunes in place? (Photo by Melissa P. Creative Commons.)

Beach Morning Glory

Beach morning-glory climbs all over the sand dunes and so it's nicknames "Goat's Foot. When beach morning glory climbs all over the dunes, it helps them stay in place. (Photo by Gabrielle Conley, © 2011.)

Evening Primrose

Beach evening primrose has bright yellow flowers. Evening primrose also can help keep dunes in place. (Photo by Gabrielle Coley, © 2011.)

Sargassum -- Seaweed

Sargassum - or "seaweed" - grows in the ocean, but tides and waves wash it ashore where tiny beach critters snuggle in it to hide. Sometimes tides will carry it all the way to the dunes where will help them stay in place.
Photo by Gabrielle Conley, ©2011

Seaweed - 3

Can you spot little critters hiding in the sargassum? (Photo by Gabrielle Conley © 2011.)

Shorebirds often search for supper in the sargassum. Next time you're at the beach, just sit and watch. You'll see LOTS of bird action there in the line of seaweed just out of reach of the water's edge.


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