Community Based Sand Dune Restoration

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American beachgrass (photo by Alyson Eberhardt)

A project team from the University of New Hampshire is actively working with communities throughout the region to restore sand dune systems.

Project team:
Gregg Moore, Research Associate Professor of Biological Sciences, UNH
Alyson Eberhardt, Coastal Ecosystems Specialist, NH Sea Grant/UNH Cooperative Extension
David Burdick, Research Associate Professor of Coastal Ecology and Restoration, UNH
Christopher Peter, Research Techniccian, Jackson Estuarine Laboratory, UNH

Why are sand dunes important?

  • Dunes improve "coastal resilience", acting as a barrier to storm surge and flooding, protecting adjacent property and infrastructure.
  • Dunes serve as significant wildlife habitat, including habitat for endangered species.
  • Sand dunes provide a sand source that nourishes eroding beaches and feeds nearshore sand bars during storms.

Restoring Dunes with Vegetation

  • Sand dunes are a constantly changing system. However, planting beachgrass and other native dune plants in areas where vegetation is scarce can help the natural building processes of dunes.
  • Dune vegetation traps wind-blown sand and rebuilds the dunes over time.
  • Areas where dune vegetation is destroyed (e.g., walkways) can funnel storm energy which can damage property and infrastructure.
  • Replanting in degraded areas can help rebuild the dunes and their capacity to reduce the impacts of storms. It is important to use designated pathways to allow these areas to grow and rebuild.

Interns planting beachgrass. Example of sand fencing (photo by Natalie Feldsine)

Sand fencing:

  • The installation of sand fencing helps add sand volume quickly to the dunes. The fencing captures wind-blown sand while directing beach traffic to limit damage to dune plants.
  • Coastal communities are critical partners in our sand dune restoration efforts. We strive to engage local residents in all stages of our projects, including community meetings and on the ground restoration work.
  • Volunteer opportunities are available for people of all ages. See the Coastal Research Volunteer opportunities calendar for current opportunities.

Project Locations:

1) Hampton and Seabrook, NH
2) Newbury, MA
3) Newbury, Newburyport & Salisbury, MA

If you have questions about any of the projects, please contact:
Alyson Eberhardt (alyson.eberhardt@unh.edu)