Coastal Dune Restoration: A Strategy for Alleviating Dieout of Ammophila breviligulata

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Abstract

Dieout of Ammophila breviligulata— death of the major dune-stabilizing plants — has been observed along the north and mid-Atlantic coast of the United States for the past decade and a half. Pathogenic nematodes have been identified as the probable causal agents; they can bring about a complete dieout of sand dune vegetation, with Ammophila breviligulata being the first species to die. Typically, such an area would remain barren for up to five years before plants could be successfully introduced. Applications of fertilizer and dolomitic limestone were tested in the field as a possible management strategy to alleviate the vulnerability of a denuded dune to erosion by making it possible to plant such a site earlier than usual. These applications were also tested in an area of weakened and dying plants to determine if the vegetation could be saved before complete dieout occurred. By creating soil conditions conducive to vigorous plant growth, it was hypothesized that the plants could better withstand the stress of nematode attack. The addition of N-P-K macronutrient fertilizer resulted in increased growth and spread of plants introduced into a site where the grass had been dead for only one to two years. Results indicate that application of fertilizer would be necessary only every other year at most. Micronutrient application, at the concentration used in this study, had little or a somewhat detrimental effect. The addition of dolomitic limestone increased the survival of newly introduced plants. It was also found that the application of macronutrients to a site of moribund vegetation could not only rescue the plants in that site, but could also increase their growth, vigor, and spread, thereby preventing further loss of plant cover essential to dune stabilization.

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