Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research

Small steps, giant leaps

VIDI - Building coastal landscapes with spatially organizing plants

The formation of vegetated coastal ecosystems requires landscape forming plants to generate sufficiently strong self-promoting feedbacks. For instance, clonally expanding dune grasses increasingly stimulate sedimentation of airborn particles with increasing patch size and shoot density, which promotes their own growth. In this research project we investigate how clonally expanding grasses build coastal landscapes through biophysical interactions.

Field experiment with establishment structures on the beach of Sapelo Island (Georgia, USA). Photo: Valérie Reijers

Clonal expansion strategies

Recently, it was found that dune grasses deploy distinct clonal expansion strategies that control their spatial shoot organization and therefore their feedback strength in the early phase of ecosystem colonization. In the first year of the project (2019), we researched whether these clonal expansion strategies are environmental dependent and how these strategies differ between different species of cordgrass and dune grass along the European West coast (from France to Denmark). 

Furthermore, an experiment to determine how establishment structures influence the clonal growth strategies of cordgrass and dune grass on Texel (NL) and Sapelo Island (GA, USA) was started in 2019. These biodegradable establishment structures (BESE) are found to enhance survival and growth of cordgrasses. However, how this affects the growth strategy and subsequently landscape building capacity of the plants is influenced is unknown.

Identifying the bottlenecks

In the spring of 2020, we set up a field experiment to identify bottlenecks in the establishment of marram grass (Ammophila arenaria). Marram grass is known for its efficient dune building and is used in restoration and conservation around the world. Little is known about the germination and establishment of marram grass. In this experiment the establishment success from seed and rhizome is compared on five different beach locations on Texel and Terschelling. These locations differ in beach width and have differing physical conditions. Besides, the effect of existing vegetation on establishment of new seedlings is tested.

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  • In the summer of 2020 Clea van de Ven and Carlijn Lammers were interviewed by Pim Bens from Studio Buiten Werking  about their research into the growth and development of new coastal landscapes. Watch the YouTube video
Project information
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Linked centre of expertise:
Netherlands Organization for S…
1 Jul 2018 - 30 Jun 2023

Meet the team

Heide van der, Tjisse
Research Leader