LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

How Vegetation Acts as a Natural Protective Barrier

Figure 12. A partially eroded portion of the primary palisade dune at Coquina Beach, which is protected by its vegetation. (Photograph by Blair Tormey. More about the photograph)

Vegetation on the dunes at Coquina Beach plays a crucial role in their ability to protect the island from storm overwash. Close inspection of the partially eroded primary dune offers a unique view of the anastomosing pattern of rhizomes that help to stabilize the dune. Rhizome forms are an effective adaptation to the rapid burial typical of dune environments. Because they do not depend on seed dispersal for reproductioon, species such as Spartina patens, sea oats, and American beach grass are able to recover quickly from storm erosion and thus stabilize the dune.