Can Vegetation Removal Successfully Restore Coastal Dune Biodiversity?
Coastal dune habitats have been declining globally over the last several decades due to rapid urbanization. Within remaining dune systems, dune fixation has resulted in further losses of mobile dunes with negative impacts on their associated species. Some studies suggest vegetation removal can initially promote habitat heterogeneity, and increase availability of suitable habitats for psammophile, xeric and endemic mobile dune species, but longer-term responses are generally unknown. We
... nknown. We investigated the temporal trends of four taxonomic groups to determine the effect of vegetation removal on dune assemblages over a 12-year period at an LTER site. Three different forms of removal are investigated here—removal in a grid form on fixed dunes, removal of the wind-facing slope vegetation on semi-fixed dunes and opportunistic off-road driving on disturbed dunes. Results were varied across taxa, highlighting the need for multi-taxa monitoring in conservation and restoration management. Overall, fixed dune treatment had very little effect, while a stronger response was found in semi-fixed treatments in particular for mobile dune indicator species, which showed evidence of recolonization within a few years following treatment. Disturbed dunes were most similar to mobile dunes for animal taxa indicating that pulse removal may not be as effective as continuous press disturbance. Nevertheless, a less destructive form of disturbance such as re-introduction of grazing might be preferable and requires further investigation.