Changes in vegetation cover on the Younghusband Peninsula transgressive dunefields (Australia) 1949–2017

Martim Moulton, Patrick Hesp, Graziela Miot Da Silva Hesp, Camille Bouchez, Muriel Lavy, Guilherme Fernandez

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36 Citations (Scopus)


Studies have shown that the impact of climate change, human and animal actions on coastal vegetation can turn stabilized dunes into active mobile dunes and vice versa. Yet, the driving factors that trigger vegetation changes in coastal dunes are still not fully understood. In the transgressive dunefields of the Younghusband Peninsula (south-east coast of South Australia) historical aerial photographs show an increase in vegetation cover over the last ~70 years. This study attempts to identify the causes of the changes in vegetation cover (1949 to 2017) observed in a typical section of the coastal dune systems of the Peninsula. Vegetation cover was first estimated for various years using the available historical aerial photography (long-term changes – 1949 to 2017) and recent satellite imagery (short-term annual changes – 2010 to 2017) for the area, and then results were discussed against the observed changes in climatic variables and rabbit density, factors that could have played a role in this transformation. Results of long-term changes show that the vegetation cover has increased significantly from 1949 to 2017, from less than 7% vegetation cover to almost 40%, increasing dune stabilization and forming parabolic dune systems. Periods with the largest growth in vegetation cover (1952-1956 and 2009-2013) coincide with a significant decline in rabbit numbers. Rabbit density was found to be the primary factor linked to the rapid vegetation growth and stabilization of the dunefield, for both decadal long-term (last 68 years) and annual short-term changes (last 8 years). Other factors such as changes in rainfall, aeolian sediment transport, land use practices, and the introduction of invasive plants have apparently played a limited to negligible role in this stabilization process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)459-470
Number of pages12
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019


  • climate variability
  • coastal dunes
  • coastal vegetation
  • rabbits
  • vegetation change


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