Why is it important to monitor dune changes?
Over time, the dunes may appear to be different due to natural factors and human impacts. Having a documented example of how the dunes look from year-to-year helps to identify problem areas along the dune area, and even where dune blowouts beginning to develop. A dune blowout usually starts as a small path where the vegetation has died off, either naturally, or because of human or animal foot traffic. Over time, that small path is eroded away and becomes a gaping hole void of vegetation. If we can notice an area with the potential for a dune blowout the stewards can try to take measures to slow the process such as installing snow fencing or taking part in a dune grass planting.
Dune cherry patch on at Black Pond Wildlife Management Area in August 2003 & 2009. Left photo by www.nysgdunes.org, right photo by Eastern Lake Ontario Dune Steward, Liz Wolff. Dune Cherry is a rare plant in New York State.
Dune blowout at Black Pond Wildlife Management Area in August 2003 and 2005. Top photo by www.nysgdunes.org, bottom photo by Eastern Lake Ontario Dune Steward, Liz Wolff. Black Pond WMA is host to some of the highest dunes along the eastern Shore of Lake Ontario.
Along the 17-mile stretch of Eastern Lake Ontario beaches, the dune are thousands of years old. They are remnants of glacial action, way before our time. Exposed sand will continue to migrate inland by wind and wave action unless it is stopped by a barrier. Vegetation on the dunes acts as a natural barrier to keep sand along the shore rather than in the wetlands. As a means of public education, Eastern Lake Ontario Dune Stewards can use the photo-monitoring project to illustrate to visitors that small actions can create a ripple-effect that can negatively or positively impact the dune ecosystem over time. When visiting the dunes please remember how fragile they are. Please use protective dune walkovers and designated walkways when visiting the Eastern Lake Ontario to minimize negative impacts to the area. You can positively influence the area by not only removing your trash, but trash that has been left by others. If we practice admiring them from a distance now, these sand dunes will be around to admire for years to come!