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van der Veen, A., Grootjans, A.P., de Jong, J., Rozema, J.: Reconstruction of an interrupted primary beach plain succession using a Geographical Information System. Journal of Coastal Conservation, 3: 71-78, 1997.


Abstract. This study reports on a primary succession on a beach plain on the Dutch Wadden island of Schiermonnikoog. Vegetation succession started in 1959 when a sand dike was constructed to prevent structural erosion of the area by storm floods. Since then the sandy beach behind the dike has been protected from the direct influence of the North Sea. Heavy storms in 1972, however, created a large gap in the dike which has remained open since. Occasional storm floods during winter penetrate deeply into the area and salt water can cover parts of the beach plain for several months. This had a pronounced impact on the vegetation. Vegetation maps for six different years and data from a permanent plot have been used to reconstruct vegetation succession over a 42-yr period. Certain parts of the area seem to have changed little, while others have developed a grassland or scrub cover. The heavy storms and associated processes such as sand blowing, intensive flooding and increased salinity have created a disturbance/ stress gradient of progressive and regressive succession across the beach plain. In certain places the vegetation cover has repeatedly been destroyed and succession re-initiated. It is concluded that the different stages of succession and associated diversity of plant species only can persist through the maintenance of the natural dynamics of the area.

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