Disturbance Processes and Dynamics in Coastal Dunes

Patrick A. Hesp, M. Luisa Martínez

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

64 Citations (Scopus)


Coastal dunes occur throughout the world and thus in a diversity of climatic regimes. However, independent of the geographical location, they all share a set of environmental characteristics that greatly affect seed germination, seedling establishment, and adult performance. Repeatedly, and for a wide variety of locations ranging from tropical to subarctic latitudes, it has been demonstrated that the predominant factors that have a significant impact on the dynamics of coastal dune vegetation can be divided into two groups-environmental gradients, and recurring disturbances. Typically, salinity, substrate mobility, radiation, and nutrient contents vary following a gradient. Salinity, near surface wind speed, radiation, and substrate mobility decrease inland, while nutrient and biotic pressures increase. In turn, disturbance events occur mostly through wave scarping, water intrusion, substrate erosion, and burial by sand (or snow) and may be gradual or abrupt, and are commonly spatially and temporally variable. The intensity of these events will depend on the orientation of the coast, wind speed, time of year (or season), storm frequency and intensity, tide regime, surf zone-beach type, and perhaps mean sediment size. However, recent perspectives state that disturbances overlay environmental gradients, and their impact is, therefore, influenced by such gradients. In this sense, the relative importance of each depends on the spatial and temporal scale at which each occurs. In particular, transgressive dune fields are largely ignored in current geological, geomorphological, and ecological research and literature, yet they provide many opportunities for fundamental and exciting research.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPlant Disturbance Ecology
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages33
ISBN (Print)9780120887781
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2007
Externally publishedYes


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