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About Dunes in Hawai‘i

View looking down onto the beach at Diamond Head Beach
Why preserve and restore dunes?

Beaches represent the leading edge of an active and often eroding sandy coastal plain or dune field. Dunes and inland sand deposits are an important source of sediments that nourish the beach during high waves and storms. Historically in Hawaiʻi, many of the beachfront homes, hotels, and resorts have been constructed on top of frontal dunes, locking up vital sand beneath shorefront buildings and landscaping so that it can no longer replenish the active beach.

What is dune restoration?

Dune preservation and restoration is one of the most proactive ecosystem-based strategies in the coastal management toolbox. Sometimes referred to as a mix of art and science, dune restoration is the process of working with the natural processes of sand accumulation and vegetation growth to encourage buildup of healthy dunes over time. While a successful dune restoration project must effectively balance the needs of the community and the project budget with the desired ecological outcomes, the technical methods of restoration are fairly simple. It is important to consider that coastal restoration sites require varying degrees of ongoing maintenance and stewardship over time, and dune restoration is as much about managing the interface of humans with the beach as it is about ecological restoration.

How do healthy beaches and dunes work?

Shorefront dunes are an important resource that store excess sand reserves and provide an emergency supply of sand back to the beach when erosion occurs. Healthy dunes also protect development and infrastructure from inundation and erosion damage and provide habitat for unique coastal flora and fauna. Dunes are naturally resilient and able to adapt to storm waves, high winds, and high tides. In conjunction with offshore reef systems, coastal sand dunes are one of the first lines of defense against high wave impacts, and are an important component of a healthy, sandy beach.


Contact information:
Wesley Crile
Coastal Dune Restoration Specialist

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