GTM Research Reserve and community volunteers plant sea oats to restore dunes at beach


More than 2,000 sea oats were recently planted along the beach of the Department of Environmental Protection's Guana Tolomato Matanzas (GTM) Research Reserve to protect the shoreline during hurricanes and tropical storms.

GTM and Northeast Florida Aquatic Preserves staff, their families and community volunteers joined together for the project. 

"Sea oats helps protect the shoreline," said Dr. Michael Shirley, director of the GTM Research Reserve. “The massive root system of the sea oats is able to hold soil and sand in place during extreme weather events such as hurricanes and tropical storms.”

According to the GTM Research Reserve, sea oats are valuable as a dune builder and stabilizer in the Southeastern United States, Eastern Mexico and some Caribbean islands. Their tall leaves trap wind-blown sand and promote sand dune growth, while their deep roots act to stabilize them, helping protect beaches and property from damaging high winds, storm surges and tides.

"We work hard to help make our coastline more resilient, especially so that we are prepared for hurricane season," said Scott Eastman, manager for the Northeast Florida Aquatic Preserves. "Planting sea oats on our beach helps develop natural resiliency to act as a first line of defense against storm surge and other effects from sea level rise."

The reserve plans to continue monitoring this restoration project to gauge success and to guide future DEP dune restoration efforts.