Burial by sand
Burial by sand
In coastal dune systems, plant communities are fundamentally the product of interaction between disturbance of the substrate, impact of high wind velocities, salt spray episodes, sand accretion levels and other factors of the environmental complex. Burial by sand is probably the most important physical stress that alters species diversity by eliminating disturbance-prone species (Maun 1998). There is a close correlation between sand movement and species composition, coverage and density (Moreno-Casasola 1986; Perumal 1994; Martínez et al. 2001). Sand accretion kills intolerant species, reduces the relative abundance of less tolerant species and increases the abundance of tolerant species. It filters out species as the level of burial starts to exceed their levels of tolerance. For example, lichens and mosses are the first to be eliminated, then the annuals and biennials and finally the herbaceous and woody perennials. Again within each life form and genus there are significant differences in survivability. Burial imposes a strong stress on production by altering normal growth conditions and exposing plants to extreme physiological limits of tolerance. Do plant communities occurring in different locations within a dune system correspond to the amount of sand deposition? Several studies (Birse et al. 1957; Moreno- Casasola 1986; Perumal 1994) show that the species composition and their distribution are strongly related to the long-term average sand deposition. The evolution of a plant community in coastal foredunes requires frequent and persistent predictable burial events specific to a particular coast. In a large majority of sea coasts burial occurrences are of relatively low magnitude and species occupying the coasts are well adapted to withstand the stress imposed by burial. This recurring event within the generation times of plant species allows them to acquire genes of resistance over time and evolution of adaptations to live in this habitat. A prerequisite to survive in this habitat happens to be the ability to withstand partial inundation by sand. To survive the dynamic substrate movement a plant species must be a perennial, be able to withstand burial, endure xerophytic environment, spread radially and vertically, and adapt to exposure on deflation and coverage on burial (Cowles 1899).
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