Schooner Cove Sand Dune Restoration 

In March of 2017 the Central Westcoast Forest Society (CWFS), in partner with Pacific Rim National Park Reserve carried out restoration on a section of Schooner Cove sand dunes. 

Coastal sand dunes are found throughout the whole of the Pacific Coast of North America, yet only a few are remaining. Within the past 100 years British Columbia has recorded a 56% loss of dunes across coastal areas. Nearby in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, not far away from Tofino we are now able to watch a local dune habitat being revived. Walking up Long Beach northbound and crossing Schooner Beach, the newly gained dune habitat is located between Box Island and Schooner Cove.

This latest phase of the dune restoration project in the Park has been performed by Parks Canada in cooperation with the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations and Central Westcoast Forest Society (CWFS). This work has been implemented mostly throughout March to reestablish a highly dynamic and simultaneously fragile ecosystem.

Dunes are formed from the constant interplay of wind and sand that leads to sediment deposition, erosion, and lateral movement. Hereby, nature creates a unique habitat ranging from sparsely inhabited areas to areas with dense vegetation. Disturbance processes, such as dune blowouts or wave overwash during storm surge, due to high weather and tidal exposure can occur regularly.

Inhabitants of dunes must deal with many challenges, such as salty air, wind and sand abrasion, as well as varying substrate stability, just to name a few. Therefore, dune succession is highly variable and species composition can vary significantly. However, typicaldune vegetation includes herbaceous, succulent, shrub, and tree species with varying degrees of tolerance to these extreme conditions.

Over the last 80 years invasive plant species like the European Beachgrass and American Beachgrass, have settled and propagated quickly in the Schooner dunes. These species were introduced to coastal areas to mitigate erosion. The combination of drift wood logs and the invasive grasses have stabilized this once dynamic ecosystem in the Schooner dune. The break-down and decay of these invasive grasses have created a humus soil allowing the rainforest to encroach on the dune and overtake the ecosystem.

 An unfortunate side effect of this invasive species is the suppression of rare and endangered native species that only occur in healthy dune habitats. There has been a global appeal to preserve rare and endangered species and ecosystems within the last few decades. Habitat restoration is needed to meet these conservation goals.

The restoration of the Schooner Cove dunes aims to bring back vanishing species like the beautiful blooming Pink sand verbena that was once thought to be extinct in Canada and the Silky Beach Pea, of which 60 per cent of the total population is found in Pacific Rim National Park. Plants native to the dunes have evolved to depend on dynamic sand movement. This recent work in Schooner Cove will contribute to the long term survival of these rare species and help to restore ecosystem resiliency.