Tuesday, 10 June 2014

A New Ecosystem

Often when visiting nature reserves or other wild places we enjoy the biodiversity and marvel at the complexity of the ecosystem.  But it can also be interesting to study a location with such a poor flora that, after a few minutes, one can be confident that one has seen every plant species.  The beach from the south end of Sutton-on-Sea to Sandilands is sand recently accumulated with the help of the Environment Agency's beach nourishment programme.  Over 15 million cubic metres of sand have been added to the Lincolnshire beaches over the past 20 years.  For a review of this work and plans for the future see "Adapting to Climate Change on the Lincolnshire Coastline through the Lincshore Beach Management Scheme" by Andrew E. Rouse et al.

Marram Grass, Ammophila arenaria, established itself in this area a few years ago and last year the Environment Agency planted a lot more with the hope that a natural-looking dune system would build up, protecting the hard sea defences at the infamous Acre Gap, where a major breach occurred in 1953.  It has been growing rapidly this spring and small but developing dunes are now a feature of beach, the mat of Marram roots stabilising the sand and the shoots trapping more wind-blown sand to increase the dune height.

The Marram has now been joined by three other species, able to colonise the somewhat protected sand surface.  Sea Sandwort, Honckenya peploides, now loosely covers several patches of ground of a square metre or more.  There are also occasional specimens of Frosted Orache, Atriplex laciniata, and Prickly Saltwort, Salsola kali.

It will be interesting to watch the area and see what else establishes itself over time.

Sea Sandwort, Honckenya peploides

Frosted Orache, Atriplex laciniata

Prickly Saltwort, Salsola kali

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