That small track you use to go to the beach everyday could be causing harm to the dunes it crosses.
Aerial images taken at Port Ōhope over the last 10 years show how what started as a small beach track has led to the dunes around it eroding en masse.
Coast Care Regional Coordinator Rusty Knutson says, simply put, dune systems are surprisingly fragile and don’t like being stepped on.
“Using unofficial tracks over dunes to reach the beach kills off the native dune plants, which in turn stops the regeneration of the dunes,” he said.
“So, in time, we begin to see stretches of bare sand where there used to be dunes. The same thing happens when people arrive at the beach, many like to lay their towels down and sit right next to the dunes which again causes die off of the resident dune plants.
“We’re seeing the impact of these actions now at Port Ōhope with a large area formerly covered by dunes now just sand.”
Knutson says dunes are important because they provide a buffer between land and sea which protects our homes and other infrastructure from weather and sea surges. In coastal areas they are also the community’s first line of defence against climate change.
The dunes at Port Ōhope in 2018. Image: Bay of Plenty Regional Council.
New Zealand’s dune systems are also rich ecosystems that provide homes for many species found nowhere else and are an important part of our coastal biodiversity.
“The good news is our volunteer communities help reverse this damage through planting sand binding native dune species, but for any new dunes to grow successfully we need people to keep to the official paths,” he says.
“We’re always happy to have people on board for planting days, you can find out when one is happening near you by checking our Facebook page. We can also take people out for Weed Walks on request to learn more about invasive beach weeds so we would encourage people to reach out if they’re interested in that too.”
Coast Care is a coastal restoration programme, run in close partnership with local communities, local authorities, care groups and schools, that aims to restore and protect the sand dunes along our Bay of Plenty beaches.
The dunes at Port Ōhope in November, 2021. Image:Bay of Plenty Regional Council.