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Posted on 30/10/2020 by Phillip Island Nature Parks

Dune restoration receives funding boost

Phillip Island Nature Parks was the recent recipient of a grant to tackle dune erosion at the world-famous Penguin Parade under the Coastal Public Access and Risk Grants program from Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP).

The Nature Parks has succeeded in removing many threats for Phillip Island’s Little Penguins including eliminating foxes and restoring habitat. Yet the sand dunes behind Summerland Beach at the Penguin Parade and along the coast are open to the uncontrollable forces of the ocean and climate change.

Nature Parks’ researchers in collaboration with the University of Melbourne, have been working on a research project focussed on the ecological restoration of dunes at both Summerland Beach and Cape Woolamai. The objective is to find solutions towards longer-term ecological stability of the dunes on Phillip Island.

“The grant funding will be used to create a more resilient environment at the Penguin Parade by maintaining penguin access after high tide and surge events,” said Dr Andre Chiaradia, Marine Scientist at Phillip Island Nature Parks.

“The coastal environment is one of the most threatened ecosystems in Australia and Phillip Island is not immune. The coastline has retreated inland as a result of high tides and dune erosion, creating high scarp in the dunes that have required ongoing management to maintain penguin access in recent years.”

“Although dune erosion is expected in winter, these erosion events are getting more common due to sea-level rise. Dune recovery following erosion can take years, creating sand loss around the critical areas such as the Penguin Parade habitat.”

The research project included analysing historical patterns of shoreline change over 80 years (1939 –2019) using a series of aerial and satellite images. They show the difference of approximately five metres on average in the shoreline retreat landwards between March 1939 and September 2019, with up to 12 metres near the headland.

“Although this shift is not massive considering it is over 80 years, it is still problematic as even modest shoreline recession threatens penguin access to the Penguin Parade. Recovery after each dune erosion event has been slow and not enough to replace the sand removed by the tides which has accumulated in the far eastern end of Summerland Beach.”

The project involves intensive sand nourishment, marram grass and sea-wheat weed control and monitoring of the progress using 3D maps created by drone images.

“This is a hands-on project that involves environmental rangers, local contractors, weed control to future-proof our dune system. Lessons learnt in this project can be extended to other parts of the island and other coastal regions in Victoria and Australia with similar challenges.”