This summer, spare a thought for our fragile coastal dunes

News article |

This summer, spare a thought for our fragile coastal dunes
Tokuremoar Reserve, Goolwa. Image credit: Bill Doyle

Living in a sunburnt country, it's little wonder that many of us head to the coast for summer holidays. Generation after generation have treasured memories of time spent on the beach, but the need to approach the shoreline more mindfully is important to ensure it’s not degraded for future use.

Why do coastal dunes need our care and attention?

The dunes you will find along the state’s coastline are both magnificent and fragile. Long gone are the days when taking a path over the dunes to the beach is acceptable – and that also applies to our pets.

Coastal weeds compete for the same resources as native coastal vegetation.

Introduced fauna species like rabbits, foxes, cats and deer threaten native coastal flora and fauna.

Off-road vehicles on beaches and sand dunes also contribute to erosion, native vegetation decline and loss of habitat, particularly for nesting and feeding shorebirds.

Many coastal dunes also provide a unique record of Aboriginal history like the dune ranges of the Limestone Coast region where First Nations peoples living along the coast used the sea and coastal waters as a food source.

The large mounds of shell that remain from molluscs eaten by Aboriginal communities are known as middens and are sacred sites along the state’s southern coast.

What’s being done?

Across South Australia, landscape boards are working to help protect dune systems.

Our Plover Coast (Landscapes Hills and Fleurieu, Green Adelaide)

The spinifex grasses of our coastal dunes provide critical nesting habitat for the nationally threatened hooded plover.

From Port Adelaide to Goolwa, the Our Plover Coast project is working to remove introduced grasses from dune systems at priority breeding sites, revegetating them with local native spinifex vegetation.

This summer, spare a thought for our fragile coastal dunes
Friends of the Hindmarsh River Estuary group are among volunteers helping to restore coastal dune habitats.

The removal of densely vegetated areas of introduced grasses on hooded plover breeding beaches aims to give the threatened birds more opportunity for suitable nesting territories.

The introduced grasses cause the dunes to unnaturally develop steeper slopes, which limit the ability of the small birds to seek shelter in them.

Lower, less steep dunes provide habitat for nests and allow hooded plover chicks to retreat into the dunes when under threat from predators or during high tides and storm surges.

Rolling spinifex grass (Spinifex hirsutus) is a hardy native coastal species which creates ideal nesting habitat for the threatened hooded plover.

Revegetation of the dunes is bringing together dedicated partners and volunteers from across the Fleurieu to help restore coastal dune habitats and ensure the birds have suitable habitat to breed and increase their population.

Over the past winter season, more than 12,000 native species were planted by land managers, project partners and multiple volunteer groups who contributed thousands of hours to protect the vulnerable bird.

The propagation and spinifex planting are being undertaken by dedicated volunteer groups through community nurseries and local contractors.

It’s an important project to capture sand and stabilise dunes, create a natural buffer for storm surges, and restore critical habitat for a variety of plants and animals, including hooded plovers.

The Our Plover Coast project is coordinated by Landscapes Hills and Fleurieu and Green Adelaide, with support from BirdLife Australia, local councils and volunteers.

Eyes on Eyre for sustainable tourism (Eyre Peninsula Landscape Board)

On the Eyre Peninsula, the isolation of its coastal environments can make environmental impacts difficult to monitor, but an increase in the region’s popularity during the COVID years highlighted the fragility of the coastline.

An influx of visitors to the region’s coast in 2020 and 2021 caused negative environmental impacts that pushed forward the Eyes on Eyre project, designed to create sustainable tourism experiences while also minimising environmental impacts.

Focussing on priority coastal campgrounds, Eyes on Eyre helps with conservation management while offering structured camping options that protect sensitive coastal environments while improving infrastructure for better visitor experiences.

This summer, spare a thought for our fragile coastal dunes
Port Gibbon Campground, Eyre Peninsula

Eyes on Eyre is an initiative between the Eyre Peninsula Landscape Board, Regional Development Australia Eyre Peninsula, the Eyre Peninsula Local Government Association and the Department for Environment and Water in conjunction with 11 local councils.

Djulda-wawa Badja – building a resilient coast (Northern and Yorke Landscape Board)

The Yorke Peninsula coastline supports diverse and unique ecosystems and is home to many plants and animals that are threatened and declining.

Its gulfs and sheltered bays are critical environments for South Australia’s marine diversity and are globally significant for the conservation of migratory shorebirds which visit from the northern hemisphere via the East Asia Flyway.

Building the resilience of this coastline is critical to ensure the natural environment can withstand the pressures of a changing climate and the increasing popularity of the area’s coastal lifestyle.

Djulda-wawa Badja, which means ‘resilient coast’ in Narungga language, is a two-year project led by the Northern and Yorke Landscape Board to strengthen and protect Yorke Peninsula’s coast and improve biodiversity through practical on-ground action.

This involves revegetating coastal areas, installing protective fencing, and conducting weed control to allow native species to rejuvenate.

This summer, spare a thought for our fragile coastal dunes
Spinifex on dunes at Gym Beach, Yorke Peninsula

The project has also supported the installation of two nesting platforms for endangered eastern ospreys, is set to begin developing a coastal access strategy to manage off-road vehicles and is working with Yorke Peninsula Council to make bush camping more sustainable.

The Djulda-wawa Badja project is funded through the Landscape Priorities Fund and through support from Yorke Peninsula Council, Barunga West Council, AGL and Legatus.

4 easy things you can do to help

No matter where you holiday this summer, please treat the local environment respectfully.

Do these 4 things to minimise your impact:

1. avoid driving on beaches, or if you do, ensure it's a designated and signposted track

2. follow instructional signage

3. take your rubbish home

4. give wildlife space.

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