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Georgia Southern biologists conducting plant ecology study on Tybee’s dunes

Published: Jun. 10, 2021 at 4:42 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 10, 2021 at 4:54 PM EDT
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TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. (WTOC) - Over the last year, a team of Georgia Southern University biologists have been conducting a plant ecology study on Tybee Island’s dunes.

This project includes evaluating which plant species and planting densities are most effective at accumulating sand and maintaining a sturdy dune system.

The students took on a big task Thursday to plant 3,000 sea oats from Center Street to East Gate.

Graduate student Shannon Matzke is helping lead this project, which she says is all based off the city’s big project with beach renourishment and dune reconstruction.

Matzke says the project focuses on the best practices for building dunes. This includes looking at how well the dune plants are surviving and if the dunes need more or less planting.

Matzke says a bare dune is not doing its job because the plants are vital to holding the dunes together to protect inland development.

“As the sand blows in from the water and from the wider beach it will hit the blades of grass and drop down, so it continues to build these dunes. Also, those plants along with some vines that we have out here have an extensive root system that branch out and go deep, so that stabilizes the sand and helps it stay together. If we did not have plants the sand just blows right off. It gets in peoples’ yards, it goes up in their houses and then the dune, all that work that you’ve just done, starts to disappear,” Matzke said.

Matzke says she wants to see this become a community-wide project that people on the island can get involved in to help them continue to monitor the dunes for years to come.

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