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Last updated: June 24, 2015

Northwest District DEP Northwest District - Dune Restoration Program DEPQuick Links

Coastal Dune Ecosystem Restoration

Recent tropical storms and hurricanes along the Florida panhandle have severely damaged many parts of the coastal dune ecosystem.  Restoring vegetation on coastal dunes is important because vegetation helps stabilize dunes and provides essential habitat and food for many species of wildlife on the island including endangered species.  Many plant species removed by storm events are not readily available for dune restoration projects and as a result are not reintroduced during restoration projects.  This can result in a reduction of the biodiversity of vegetation on the restored dunes.  Through a coordinated effort with Gulf Islands National Seashore, and Florida State Parks we will identify key species that need to be produced and areas in need of restoration.  Plant material is collected from coastal areas in the form of seeds, cuttings, or divisions and brought to the DEP Nursery where they are propagated and grown to a size suitable for restoration.  These plants are then used in restoration projects.  This project is made possible through a generous grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Genetic Integrity

Currently, our restoration efforts are focused in several areas in Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, and Walton Counties in the Florida panhandle.  Specifically, restoration projects have occured on Perdido Key, Santa Rosa Island, and Topsail Hill State Preserve.  Plants collected from these areas are kept segregated at the FDEP nursery which allows us to return plants collected from one area back to the same area in an effort to maintain the genetic integrity of restoration sites.  Plant material is collected from local beaches and then propagated by seed germination, rooting cuttings, and plant divisions.  Propagating off material collected from the restoration site allows us to multiply our plant numbers and do restoration plantings with plants collected from the restoration area even when collection material is limited.  This is especially important in the case of our coastal dune systems where recent hurricanes have limited the amount of plant material present.

Dune Blowouts

Whenever possible, people should use walkovers when crossing a dune field.  Foot traffic in dunes tramples vegetation and causes erosion over time.  This effect, coupled with a strong tidal surge from tropical storms, can result in the creation of blowouts in the dune system.  Rushing water washes away sand along the weakened trail areas created by foot traffic, thus eventually creating blowouts which ultimately compromise the protective structure of the dune system.  As a result, storm surges are allowed to move past the dune field and into once protected areas including neighborhoods, roadways, and wildlife habitat.  Numerous blowouts can be found at Topsail Hill State Preserve which suffered several blowouts when Hurricane Ivan barreled ashore in September of 2004.

Local Restoration Areas


                        Perdido Key State Park

Perdido Key Dune Planting Map

Plantings in Perdido Key state park have been concentrated on increasing species richness in restoration areas.  Key species that are sources of food and cover for wildlife are being planted to supplement the large scale Sea Oat planting done in 2006.

Perdido State Park Before Resoration Project
Before Restoration Planting
Perdido State Park After Restoration Project
After Restoration Planting



                        Gulf Islands National Seashore

Gulf Island National Seashore Planting Map

Boy scouts have planted several species of plants near the entrance of Ft. Pickens road in an effort to stabilize the shifting sands and start dune formation.  Plants have also been supplied to the University of Florida�s West Florida Research and Education Center for use in dune restoration studies looking at sand accumulation and survival rates of different planting methods and season of planting.


Fort Pickens Before Restoration Project

Fort Pickens Before Restoration Planting

Fort Pickens After Restoration Project

Fort Pickens After Restoration Planting

                        Topsail Hill
Preserve State Park

Topsail Hill Preserve State Park Planting Map

The restoration at Topsail Hill Preserve Park consists of restoring the eroded path that leads to the top of Topsail Hill, one of the tallest dunes systems in the Panhandle. Once restored, visitors will be able to use the new observation boardwalk to view one of the most incredible overlooks on the Gulf Coast without causing damage to the ancient dune system.


Topsail Hill Preserve State Park Before Restoration Project
Before Restoration Planting
Topasail Hill Preserve State Park After Restoration Project
After Restoration Planting



Additional Information


For more information, contact: Beth Fugate



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