Journal of Coastal Conservation

, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp 105-116

First online:

Early development of vegetation in restored dune plant microhabitats on a nourished beach at Ocean City, New Jersey

  • Freestone A. L. Affiliated withDepartment of Natural Resources, Rutgers UniversityGraduate Group in Ecology, University of California at Davis
  • , Nordstrom K. F. Affiliated withInstitute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University Email author 

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Topography and vegetation of restored dunes on a developed barrier island were examined after a large-scale beach nourishment project. Restoration began in 1993 using sand-trapping fences andAmmophila breviligulata Fern. plantings. Subsequent growth of dunes was favored by installing new fences and suspending beach raking to accommodate nesting birds. Plant species richness, percent cover of vegetation, and height ofA. breviligulata were sampled in 1999 on seven shore perpendicular transects in six dune microhabitats (backdune, primary crest, mid-foredune, swale, seaward-most fenced ridge, incipient dune on the backbeach).

A total of 26 plant taxa were found at all seven sites. Richness and percent cover were greatest in the backdune and crest, especially in locations that predated the 1992 nourishment. Richness was greater where fences enhanced stabilization. Fences initially compensate for time and space and allow vegetation to develop rapidly, but maintenance nourishment is required to protect against wave erosion and ensure long-term viability of habitat. An expanded environmental gradient is an option, where beach nourishment provides space for a species-rich crest and backdune to develop, while the incipient dune remains dynamic. Options where space is restricted include a dynamic, full-sized seaward section of a naturally functioning dune (truncated gradient) or a spatially restricted sampler of a wider natural dune (compressed gradient) maintained using fences. Expanded and truncated gradients may become self-sustaining and provide examples of natural cycles of change. Compressed gradients provide greater species richness and flood protection for the available space, but habitats are vulnerable to erosion, and resident views may be impaired.


Ammophila breviligulata Barrier island Beach nourishment Developed coast Environmental gradient Restoration Sand fence Species richness Stabilization