By ABBEY KUNKLE
Special to the PRESS
If you have been out on the beach lately, you might have seen a contraption in the dunes that appears to show that “X” marks the spot. Many have asked the city, what is it marking? Well, University of Texas Brownsville (UTB) student and city intern, Shelby Bessette, met with the SPI Shoreline Task Force Monday afternoon to fill them in.
Bessette has been collaborating with the city while simultaneously working on her thesis project with UTB, conducting important research regarding dune restoration efforts on the island. She has been conducting projects and surveying passerbys over the past few months and has recently been setting up traps on the dunes to gain a better perspective on the habitats found in both natural and restored dunes. These “X” traps use a drift fence to guide a variety of wildlife from lizards, snakes, crabs, and squirrels towards a funnel or pitfall where the animals become trapped in cages. The traps are checked morning and evening for three days, and all animals are released alive before the traps are moved to their next location.
Dune Vegetation has been another focal point for Bessette, and she has found a larger variety of plants than originally expected. Since securing a grant with the General Land Office (GLO) to purchase plants, Coastal Resource and Parks Administrator Reuben Trevino has been organizing dune restoration plantings with the help of volunteers. The project has been extremely successful with almost all the city’s dunes in healthy condition.
The sand dunes are extremely important to maintain, monitor, and restore, as they are the first line of defense for the urban setting behind them in the case of a storm surge. Dune plantings aid in keeping the dunes intact and reducing erosion due to winds and high tide. In addition to the physical benefits, many of those surveyed have noted enjoyment in observing wildlife and flowers blooming throughout the dune ecosystem.
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