Dune restoration rebuilds sea turtle nesting sites

By Stephanie Beard

beach vitex removalNew work to remove beach vitex, the “kudzu of the beach,” will help restore nesting sites for sea turtles. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service awarded a $135,000 grant to Clemson for dune restoration to protect the endangered species.

Chuck Gresham, forest scientist at the Baruch Institute of Coastal Ecology and Forest Science in Georgetown, will lead the effort. Sea turtles, federally listed as threatened or endangered in South Carolina, abort their attempt to dig a nest if they encounter vitex at the base of sand dunes.

Restoration will occur in stages. First, the highest priority areas are identified and permission obtained from the property owner. Next, herbicide is applied to a machete cut in the vitex and allowed to work for four months. Finally, native sea oats and bitter panicum are planted to build stable dunes for turtle nests.

Vitex eradication has already occurred on 75 beachfront lots in Georgetown and Charleston counties. This grant expands the project to 71 additional parcels along the state’s entire coast.

For information: Chuck Gresham, 843-546-6314, cgrshm@clemson.edu