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Old Christmas trees rebuild sand dunes!

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Old Christmas trees rebuild sand dunes!

Discarded Christmas trees arriving to sand dunes

Old Christmas trees rebuild sand dunes!

Christmas trees and Sand Dunes might seem like an unlikely match. But head towards sand dunes facing the ocean in January and you might get surprised. Out-of-date trees are far from useless. They can help restore sand dunes!
Photographer: James Douglas, Courtesy of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection 

Placed in sand discarded Christmas trees can make a lasting impact long after the decorations are taken off and the holiday season is over. The trees can mimic worn away beach grass and prevent sand grains from sweeping away with strong winds or waves.

Sand dunes act as a natural sea defence against flooding and beach erosion. They absorb the impact of high waves and storms and protects coastal areas from flooding and strong winds. If beach grass disappears from dunes, water and winds sweep away bare sand grains and the dunes flatten. When it happens, the whole coastal area gets exposed and important wildlife habitat disappears. The windblown sand accumulates inland and can cause further problems when ending up on roads and in gardens.

Volunteers and park officials place old Christmas trees in long lines parallel to the waterline along bare sandy shorelines in different parts of the world. Branches of partially sand-buried trees catch windblown grains and sand starts piling up, rebuilding the dunes. The trees help stabilise the dune surface and with time beach grass can regrow.

Dune restoration projects using Christmas trees work. For example sand dunes in Liverpool, UK, no longer accept Christmas trees for recycling. The dunes are now considered restored. Plantings of over 15 000 trees over a period of years proved successful. At many other beaches in the UK recycled Christmas trees are right now dug in to create fences across still exposed sand dunes. The main argument against restoring beach dunes with trees is that strong storms may wash poorly secured trees away, causing a cleanup challenge.

On the other side of the Atlantic, in the USA, Christmas trees are planted at sandy shorelines in many states. In Brazoria County, Texas, for example, “Dunes Day” is a yearly happening in January. Since 1978 recycled Christmas trees help to restore beach dunes. Christmas tree beach restoration projects can also be seen at beaches in North Carolina, Massachusetts, Florida and more.

Discarded Christmas trees at a sand Dune
Donated Christmas trees at Island State Park, NJ
Photographer: James Douglas, Courtesy of New Jersey Dep of Environmental Protection 

It feels good to do good, I’m sure you agree. When park officials in New Jersey this year asked residents to donate their Christmas trees to restore dunes on Island Beach State Park they hoped for around 200. “We had a small project in mind. The response was just incredible,” Jenifer Clayton, the superintendent of the State Park said. The word quickly spread resulting in 2000 trees arriving at the park.

Many beach teams look for volunteers. Connect with your closest dune conservation if you want to help out. If no need for dune restoration where you are picking up even just a single piece of trash makes a difference!

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