Jersey Shore dunes are being invaded by Asiatic sand sedge, a deep-rooted grass that spreads fast and out-competes local species. The sedge probably first came to the United States many years ago as improvised packing material, said Jeff Dement, head naturalist at the Sandy Hook headquarters of the American Littoral Society.
“Asian bubble wrap, you might say. Imagine a vase or some china coming from Japan, packed to keep. So, some of it got loose, and here it is,” Dement said, adding that, “Like any invasive, it tends to form a monoculture, so it’ll push out all the other native plants that we have here, things like seaside goldenrod, wormwood and maybe bayberry and other natives that help have a diverse ecological community.”
While the sedge’s creeping roots can help to knit dunes together, it doesn’t build them as fast or as high as does native American beachgrass. “With our successive storms in New Jersey, we need to have larger dunes to protect our infrastructure behind the dunes,” Dement said.
To avoid using herbicides, the Littoral Society welcomes volunteers to dig the sedge out by the roots, as a group from the T&M Associates engineering firm of Middletown did at Sandy Hook’s North Beach yesterday. The Littoral Society will follow up on that volunteer work next spring by replanting the area with American beachgrass.
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