, Volume 44, Issue 3, pp 420-429
Date: 23 Jul 2009

Sand Fences in the Coastal Zone: Intended and Unintended Effects

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Abstract

Sand-trapping fences modify the character of the coastal landscape and change its spatial structure, image, and meaning. This paper examines the relationship between these changes and fence usage at the municipal level, where most decisions about fence deployment are made. Use of fences in 29 municipalities on the developed coast of New Jersey is examined over a 6-year period. Interviews with municipal officers indicate that wooden slat sand-trapping fences are used primarily to build dunes to provide protection against wave uprush and flooding, but they are also used to control pedestrian traffic and demarcate territory. These uses result in changes in landforms and habitats. An aerial video inventory of fences taken in 2002 indicates that 82% of the shoreline had fences and 72% had dunes. Single and double straight fence rows are the most commonly used. Fences are often built to accomplish a specific primary purpose, but they can cause many different and often unanticipated changes to the landscape. The effects of a sand fence change through time as the initial structure traps sand, creates a dune that is colonized by vegetation, and becomes integrated into the environment by increasing topographic variability and aesthetic and habitat value. Sand fences can be made more compatible with natural processes by not placing them in locations where sources of wind blown sand are restricted or in unnatural shore perpendicular orientations. Symbolic fences are less expensive, are easy to replace when damaged, are less visually intrusive, and can be used for controlling pedestrian access.