Coastal Dunes and Plants: An Ecosystem-Based Alternative to Reduce Dune Face Erosion

Martinez, M. L., et al., 2016. Journal of Coastal Research

Original research (primary data)
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Future scenarios indicate that growing human encroachment on coasts, more frequent and stronger storms and sea level rise will result in worsening coastal squeeze. In consequence, human lives, property and infrastructure, as well as ecosystem services, will increasingly be threatened. It is therefore vital to find the means to maintain or increase the resilience and resistance of coastal zones. As an alternative to hard infrastructure, ecosystem-based coastal defense strategies have been recommended as better and more sustainable solutions. Thus, the goal of this study wasto understand the interaction of dune plants with waves, dunes and humans. We used a pantropical beach plant (Ipomoea pes-caprae) and performed 24 wave flume experiments with two beach-dune profiles, four densities of vegetation cover, and three storm regimes. We also tested tolerance to burial in seed germination and seedling growth and finally explored the impact of tourism on Ipomoea. Erosion regimes of collision and overwash were observed in the dune profiles with a berm, whereas swash and overwash regimes were observed when no berm was present. Plant cover prevented overwash and thereby erosion of the landward side of the dune. Positive responses in seeds and seedlings of Ipomoea to burial by sand enable this plant to act as a dune builder. In conditions with low tourism, Ipomoea seems to be more affected by seasonal and meteorological conditions than by trampling. These responses increase further the potential for coastal protection of Ipomoea and, thus, such an ecosystem-based protective structure can be self-sustainable.

Case studies

Basic information

  • Case ID: INT-022-1
  • Intervention type: Restoration
  • Intervention description:

    ecosystem-based alternatives for coastal protection using a plant species (Ipomoea pes-caprae) to reduce dune erosion

  • Landscape/sea scape ecosystem management: No
  • Climate change impacts Effect of Nbs on CCI Effect measures
    Coastal erosion  Positive morphological response of the beach profile; coastline displacement (dry beach gain and loss), final coastline position
  • Approach implemented in the field: No
  • Specific location:

    Tuxpan and Costa Esmeralda, Veracruz

  • Country: Mexico
  • Habitat/Biome type: Coastal |
  • Issue specific term: Ecosystem-based (general)


  • Notes on intervention effectivness: N/A
  • Is the assessment original?: Yes
  • Broadtype of intervention considered: Not applicable
  • Compare effectivness?: No
  • Compared to the non-NBS approach: Not applicable
  • Report greenhouse gas mitigation?: No
  • Impacts on GHG: Not applicable
  • Assess outcomes of the intervention on natural ecosystems: No
  • Impacts for the ecosystem: Not reported
  • Ecosystem measures: N/A
  • Assess outcomes of the intervention on people: No
  • Impacts for people: Not reported
  • People measures: N/A
  • Considers economic costs: No
  • Economic appraisal conducted: No
  • Economic appraisal described:
  • Economic costs of alternative considered: No
  • Compared to an alternative: Not reported

Evaluation methodology

  • Type of data: Quantitative
  • Is it experimental: Yes
  • Experimental evalution done: Ex-situ/lab
  • Non-experimental evalution done: Not applicable
  • Study is systematic: