According to recent article published by MLIVE the water levels in the Great Lakes have dropped about one foot from last year. However one of the reasons for this drop is the lack of precipitation. According to the US Drought Monitor the entire lower peninsula of Michigan is in a moderate drought. Thus with the good—we have a beach this year—comes the bad—fire danger and dusty roads. Please drive slowly on our roads. Please be very careful if you choose to build a fire in the fire pit at your cottage.
You are reminded to avoid pruning oak trees between April 15 and July 15 to help prevent the spread of Oak Wilt. For more information see this article posted by the Oceana Conservation District.
Practice “Dune Diligence”
Protect Marram Grass, aka Beach Grass
(Ammophila breviligulata Fernald)
Within Cobmoosa Shores we are fortunate to have beach and sand dune areas available for us to enjoy.
The dunes, in particular, are fragile ecosystems subject to erosion by wind and water. The critical “sand-binder” in Michigan’s active, coastal dune areas is a grass called marram or beach grass. As a pioneer species, it is exquisitely adapted to survive in areas characterized by high winds, low moisture, low nutrient levels, and moving sand.
Marram grass slows blowing sand by impeding it with above ground shoots, after which the sand falls down to the base of these plants and begins to pile up. The grass eventually gets buried, but then sends up more above ground parts while an extensive system of underground stems (rhizomes) and associated roots form a dense mat which binds up the loose sand and helps prevent dune erosion.
As the sand becomes somewhat stabilized, other plant species with similar adaptations to a dune environment are able to take root and promote further stabilization. Some of these are other grass species such as sand reedgrass (Calamovilfa longifolia (Hook.) Scribn.) and little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium (Michx.) Nash).
Especially during high-water periods, when dune and shoreline bluff erosion can be quite rapid, we need to do all we can to protect marram grass and its associates that act to stabilize the moving sand. If we damage or kill these all-important sand-binders, the sand particles will no longer be held in place, other species of vegetation will not be able to gain a foothold, and the animals that would find homes in vegetated, more stable dunes will not be able to live there.
Marram grass has a stem that can be damaged when walked on, and we all know that covering plants with opaque objects can kill them, so leaving boats on the dunes or other objects that block marram grass from the sun is not a good idea. In addition, root systems can become exposed or damaged by dragging chairs, boats, and toys across the dunes. Children digging in the dunes and sliding down dune banks can also damage the grasses. For these reasons, practice “dune diligence” and stay off these fragile areas as much as possible so as not to harm these stabilizing grasses.
Prepared by Barbara L. Rafaill, PhD
12 September 2020