Sand Fencing

wooden slat sand fencing
Sand fence placed along the shore at Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts.

NPS photo by Georgia Hybels.

Sand fencing on a beach or dune can assist in building a new foredune or fill gaps in dune ridges. The fence reduces local wind speed and traps sand, with different fence configurations creating different dune forms and heights. For example, fencing running parallel to the shoreline can build a protective dune ridge while zig-zag arrangements can create wider, more natural appearing dunes supportive of vegetation growth. The effectiveness of sand fencing largely depends on local wind dynamics and corresponding placement. Additionally, sand fencing can provide co-benefits by directing visitor pathways away from sensitive dune and beach habitats. These fences may be constructed of wooden slats, plastic, or fabric attached to fence posts and are relatively inexpensive. However, effective sand fences become buried as sand is trapped and relict fencing may create unwanted debris following erosional events. The formation of dunes by sand fencing alters the highly dynamic zone between the beach and the dunes, an important habitat for nesting shorebirds and sea turtles. Sand fencing may ultimately rework local wind patterns causing unplanned buildup or removal of sand in adjacent sites. Many National Seashores, such as Cape Hatteras National Seashore and Cape Cod national Seashore have utilized this simple method of beach engineering.

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Part of a series of articles titled Coastal Engineering—Soft Structures.

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Last updated: April 22, 2020