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How does saltation affect the sand dune ecosystem?

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How does saltation affect the sand dune ecosystem? Introduction: A sand dune system is an example of an ecosystem, meaning it has abiotic and biotic factors that interact with each other through energy flows and nutrient cycles to produce a dynamic and fairly stable system. Within this system we can identify habitats with their own specific set of conditions and organisms, in the sand dune ecosystem these are called seral stages (the seral stages are embryo, fore, yellow and grey dunes). The conditions in the dunes change as the seral stage progresses away from the sea. The Formation of Sand Dunes Sand dunes form by a process known as saltation, which is the discontinuous movement, transition, or development; advancement by leaps. Sand can only be moved by strong, steady winds. The air must be moving at least 15 miles per hour to be able to pick up sand grains, by a coastline this is easily present. All a sand dune then needs to form is an obstacle like a bush, rock, or in some cases an abandoned car where wind can deposit sand. Wind acts just like water in a stream and splits to flow around obstacles. As you can see by the diagram above as one granule of sand moves it hits the ground causing more to move with it, once these hit an obstacle it forms a steep bank up against it, with a long "tail" stretching out behind where it is more sheltered from the wind. ...read more.


Another physical feature that sometimes is present in the Grey Dune is Dune Slack otherwise called a pond. The water for this dune feature most often comes from rain and is therefore fresh water. The slack obviously has a completely different set of abiotic factors so therefore is host to a whole different community of plants and animals. Due to the heat of the dunes the slacks are very fragile and tend to dry up or get filled with sand blown from other parts of the dune. The Community: The community of the sand dunes contains mainly plant life, especially in the earlier seral stages and also animal life in the latter part of the yellow dune and the whole of the grey dune. The community is based on the plant life being producers, this is the first trophic level in the community, and every other organism in the community feeds on the producers so these are the most vital part of the community. The next trophic level consists of the primary consumers, these are the herbivores that eat the producers and provide the secondary consumers with their source of food, the primary consumers include rabbits, Land snails and the caterpillar of the cinnabar moth (as it is the only one who can feed on ragwort due to ragwort producing cyanide) these use warning stripes to indicate that if you eat them you will feel very ill, ensuring the survival of the rest of the species. ...read more.


Impact of humans on the ecosystem: The Impact of Humans on the sand dune system is varied in many ways. One way those humans can affect the sand dune system is by trampling the marram grass and killing it on top of the yellow dune, reverting the more stable soil back to sand, the high winds and storms in winter then create a blow out in this part of the dune, making it harder for the population to undergo secondary succession. Trampling in other areas of the dune can also cause secondary succession, such as trampled paths across grey dunes and although these do not easily form blowouts due to them being shielded somewhat from the wind the plants living there get killed and the area undergoes secondary succession. In some areas of the dune ecosystem the dunes have been trampled on so much that the dunes erode away with the storms and are never able to go into secondary succession as they are continually trampled. Conclusion: In conclusion I have found out through this investigation that the process of saltation results in (within the right conditions) the ability to form a system that is capable of supporting plant life, albeit very specific at first and becoming less varied as time moves on. The statistical analysis that I have done for this shows that the sand dune plants become more varied with time providing a basis for the assumption that saltation can be a important factor in the end result. ...read more.

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