Dune Grass Community

Habitat: Dune Grass Community
Beach Dunes on Pea Island NWR by Cindy Heffley

 The Dune Grass Community occurs immediately landward of the Upper Beach community and is subject to exposure to salt spray and abrasive, wind-blown sand. These communities are excessively drained due to the nature of the substrate and are subject to frequent shifting unless stabilized through artificial means. Artificial dune building by sand fencing and dense planting of grasses has led to the development of a high continuous line of dunes which concentrates the effects of storm waves on the beach, increasing erosion rates. Vegetative composition and plant community structure is highly correlated with exposure to salt in the environment, either in aerosol form or by ocean overwash. Generally, plant species found on the ocean side of the dunes are more tolerant to salt and the abrasive effects of wind-blown sand. Common plants in this community are sea oats, which grow from sturdy rhizomes that help to stabilize shifting sands. Other plants in this community may include American beach grass, bitter panic grass, coastal panic grass, seaside bluestem, trailing wild bean, seaside croton, and Indian blanket. Plant species of federal concern, such as dune bluecurls the federally threatened seabeach amaranth, may also occur in this community, but neither has been documented on the refuge. The Dune Grass community transitions into a Wet or Dry Maritime Grassland, Maritime Shrub, Maritime Forest, or various combinations on the landward side of the barrier dune.

Facts About Dune Grass Community

Typical Plants: 

  • sea oats
  • American beach grass
  • bitter panic grass
  • coastal panic grass
  • seaside bluestem
  • trailing wild bean
  • seaside croton
  • Indian blanket