LTER Road Trip – A Shrubby Invasion

I stood on a windy barrier island, hair whipping around my face as my boots crunched across beach seashells. The waves crashed into the sand, here and there stirring up food for one of the many gulls seeking rest or prey on this island. Before me stretched the Atlantic Ocean, as far as the eye could see; behind I could see the Virginia coastline in my mind’s eye.

With the wind and the tides, it was hard to believe these islands still existed after all these years, but here they sat, slightly above sea level. The beach formed one edge, with a dune system rising slightly towards the sky before descending into saltmarsh on the other side. In extremely high tides and storm conditions, seawater will wash over the entire island, literally picking up sand from one side and depositing it on the other. Year after year, the overwashed sand allows these islands to march towards the shoreline.

At least, that’s how it used to be.

Virginia Coastal Reserve

Read the entire article on the LTER Network Blog!

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