Coastal Beach and Dunes

Windswept sand and high sun
Leadbetter Point was primarily open sand before the spread of invasive beachgrasses.

A Window to the Past 

Once upon a time, not long ago, the ocean beaches and dunes of the southwestern Washington coast were large areas of open sand. The constantly blowing sand was sparsely vegetated and had only a few trees and shrubs (see picture above). Most native dune plants are low growing and have thick, leathery or waxy leaves. Long or wide-spreading roots work to collect water. Several species of plants, such as searocket, are stimulated to grow faster if they are covered with sand. These adaptations help them cope with sunny and windy conditions without losing too much water or being smothered. The high water table in the area creates seasonal wetlands and pools; small micro-climates of unique plants and habitat for amphibians, snakes, and birds. The refuge protects nearly 1,600 acres (648 hectares) of this coastal dune habitat at the Leadbetter Point Unit. Keep reading to learn how an intruder has caused harm to the native dune habitat...

An Invader Threatens Dune Plants and Animals 

Since the 1960s, the spread of non-native beach grasses have stabilized the normally wind-blown sand, changing the habitat dramatically. The dunes closest to the beach have grown in size as the tightly growing grasses collect sand. The shape of the dunes, combined with the density of non-native beach grasses make it relatively difficult for native species to thrive. Native dune plants such as pink sandverbena, gray beach pea, beach morning glory, and seashore lupine struggle to find space and sunlight to grow. Western snowy plovers and streaked horned larks have progressively lost nesting and foraging habitats. Several plants and animals in this habitat are listed under State or Federal Endangered Species Acts. Discover what the refuge is doing to restore and conserve the coastal dune habitat…


Facts About Coastal Beach and Dunes

Most plants have thick, leathery or waxy leaves

Have a high water table with numerous seasonal wetlands

Have been altered by non-native invasive plants