Loss of Coastal Strand Habitat in Southern California: The Role of Beach Grooming
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We investigated the role of beach grooming in the loss of coastal strand ecosystems. On groomed beaches, unvegetated dry sand zones were four times wider, macrophyte wrack cover was >9 times lower, and native plant abundance and richness were 15 and >3 times lower, respectively, compared to ungroomed beaches. Experimental comparisons of native plant performance were consistent with our survey results: although initial germination was similar, seed bank, survival, and reproduction were significantly lower in groomed compared to ungroomed plots. Rates of aeolian sand transport were significantly higher in groomed plots, while native plants or wrack placed in that zone reduced sand transport. Our results suggest beach grooming has contributed to widespread conversion of coastal strand ecosystems to unvegetated sand. Increased conservation of these threatened coastal ecosystems could help retain sediment, promote the formation of dunes, and maintain biodiversity, wildlife, and human use in the face of rising sea levels.
KeywordsNative plants Aeolian sand transport Biodiversity Beach Beach zones Ecotone Coastal dune Hummock Macrophyte wrack Kelp
We thank D. Chakos, M. Lastra, M. Lippincott, J. Tarmann, and A. Webster for their dedication and enthusiastic assistance with all aspects of field and laboratory work. We gratefully acknowledge K. Samis for her measurements of beaches on the northern Channel Islands in 2003. We extend special thanks to V. Gardner, Resource Ecologist for California State Parks, Channel Coast District, for making this research possible at San Buenaventura State Beach. We thank V. Gardner, C. Roye, and two anonymous reviewers for constructive comments on earlier versions of this manuscript. This research was supported by funding to J. Dugan from (1) the California Sea Grant Program Project # R/CZ-174 under NOAA Grant #NA06RG0142 through NOAA’s National Sea Grant College Program, U. S. Department of Commerce; (2) California Department of Parks and Recreation, Channel Coast District; and (3) the Santa Barbara Coastal LTER funded by the National Science Foundation (Award # OCE-9982105 and OCE-0620276). The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of California Sea Grant, California State Parks, the National Science Foundation or the U.S. Dept. of Commerce.
Conflicts of Interest Notification
The authors hereby state that they do not have a financial relationship with the organization that sponsored the research and that no potential conflicts of interest exist to our knowledge and understanding. We maintain full control of all primary data and we agree to allow the journal to review our data if requested.
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