Journal of Coastal Conservation

, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 203–225 | Cite as

Created dune slack wetlands effectively host rare early successional turf communities in a dynamic dunefield, New Zealand

  • Ashley L. Murphy
  • Nicholas J. D. Singers
  • Gillian L. RapsonEmail author


Dune slack wetlands should be relatively unhindered by challenges in recovering the hydrology, geochemistry and biological structure affecting other created habitats, thus presenting a simple exemplar of restoration’s success. The Manawatū coast, New Zealand, has one of the most actively prograding parabolic dunefields in the world. In 1992 a study of Tawhirihoe Scientific Reserve, Tangimoana, first described three significant wetlands in dune slacks, the floor of these wetlands containing several rare perennial turf-forming species (<4 cm tall), which were in decline. A practical experiment creating wetlands in 1996 resulted in appropriate turf habitat, and was repeated on a larger scale in 2008. A survey of the vegetation and environment of the 3 natural and 3 created wetlands was conducted in 2009–2010 summer. Seven vegetation communities were identified, the three earliest successional communities containing rare turf species. The largest wetland contained the broadest range of communities, but other natural wetlands were successionally older. The most recently created wetland has only the earliest successional phase. All wetlands progressively infill with aoelian sand over the decades, rates depending on their locations and sizes, accelerating succession to exotic vegetation. Turf communities containing rare wetland plants appear to exist for only about two decades, highlighting their temporary nature. Deliberate wetland creation remains the most promising management strategy for their perpetuation in small reserves within dynamic dunelands, but even in these simple environments, restoration impediments are easy neither to predict nor to forestall.


Community Dynamic Dune slack Excavation Turf Wetland 



We thank Christine Singers, Robert Singers, Angelina Smith, Lauren Murphy, Timothy Chainey, Penny Aspin, Halema Flannagan, Graham Franklin, Grant Blackwell and Adele Plummer for assistance with field work; Department of Conservation, Manawatū for providing financial assistance to NJDS, and for access, aerial photographs and on-going on-the-ground support, including with weed control and excavations; Max Barry for digging the first wetlands and DoC for digging Wetland 6; bordering landowners, the Sexton families, for access and information; John Barkla, Shannel Courtney, Ian Henderson, Patrick Hesp, Don Ravine, Lucy Roberts, Alastair Robertson, Tom Rouse, Mike Shepherd, Kelly Stratford and Wayne Beggs for advice; Massey University Research Fund for financial assistance to ALM; Tanenuiarangi Manawatū for financial assistance to GLR; Bastow Wilson, Vivienne McGlynn and Colin Ogle for sharing their wide-ranging knowledge of dunelands in various capacities; two anonymous referees; and Hans and Debbie Cornelissen, Vreije Universiteit, Amsterdam, and Sandra Diaz, CONICET, Cordoba, Argentina, for facilities whilst on study leave. Special mention to decades of third year Plant Ecology students who have toiled over the dunes, enduring expositions on their dynamics and occasionally thinking about them.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ashley L. Murphy
    • 1
    • 2
  • Nicholas J. D. Singers
    • 1
    • 3
  • Gillian L. Rapson
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Ecology Group, School of Agriculture and EnvironmentMassey UniversityPalmerston NorthNew Zealand
  2. 2.Healesville Sanctuary, Zoos VictoriaMelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.Nicholas Singers Ecological Solutions LtdHamiltonNew Zealand

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