For those who live along the shoreline, the prospect of dealing with severe storms is a way of life. Evidence now exists that we can expect more intense storms and erosion as a result of climate change. Along with rising seas this dynamic system is subject to a major loss of beaches. There are several ways to plan and mitigate these inevitable changes.
The most obvious, of course, is to stop building in these sensitive regions. Moratoriums on new construction, while controversial, can help protect a community from storm damage and loss of property. This helps prevent the costs of cleaning up damage after a powerful storm.
But for existing properties near the shore there are other steps that can be taken. Probably the most important is to effectively landscape a property with native vegetation that is adapted to these changes. The roots and rhizomes of many plant species can trap and bind loose soil materials and prevent the direct impact of rain, wind, and waves. This is particularly true for coastal banks and dunes which act as buffer zones between the open water and the terrestrial environment.
Ecological landscaping is not a new idea. Several organizations and nurseries have been promoting ecological principles in landscaping and gardening for many years. Native plants are those that are indigenous to a particular ecosystem. For example, bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) is a native plant on dunes and at the edge of forests. The use of native plants in landscaping can be very effective against coastal erosion, and require little or no maintenance.
Other advantages include the reduction of harmful chemicals, such as pesticides and fertilizers. The plants are adapted to normal seasonal variations in temperature and precipitation. Many species of birds and butterflies are also attracted to these natural landscapes.
Itís important to avoid invasive species even if they appear to provide one or more functions for the environment. Avoid species such as Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatas), tall reed (Phragmites australis), and the multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora). These plants are very aggressive and competitive and do not provide the same qualities to a landscape as seen with native species.
Some attractive trees that could be planted include the American holly (Ilex opaca) and the Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana). Both are evergreen and grow easily in the Capeís sandy and acidic soil. For groundcovers, Iíve already mentioned bearberry, but there is also wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbrens) and various species of goldenrod (Solidago sp.), some of which grow in sand. When preparing your property for a native garden, consult with a landscape designer.
Copyright Gil Newton 2009 Thanks to Chris Dumas for logo image.