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Pickart 1997

California Exotic Pest Plant Council                         1997 Symposium Proceedings

 Control of European Beachgrass (Ammophila arenaria) on
       the West Coast of the United States
                   Andrea J. Pickart
         The Nature Conservancy Lanphere-Christensen Dunes Preserve
                   Arcata, CA 95521
   European beachgrass (Ammophila arenaria) is the most pervasive exotic plant species currently threatening
coastal dunes on the west coast of the U.S. Ammophila is invasive in every major dune system from Santa
Barbara County, CA, to the northernmost dunes of Washington. Active management of this species is on the
rise, in part because of the Federal listing under the Endangered Species Act in 1993 of the western snowy
   Although interest in controlling Ammophila began about 1980, real success was not encountered until 1990,
and implementation of control efforts on a large scale is still new and undergoing refinement. In 1997
management of Ammophila was carried out by a total of seven agencies on eight different dune systems in
Oregon and California at a total cost of $131,000 (Table 1). Currently in use are manual, mechanical, and
chemical methods of control, used alone or in combination. The goals of these efforts have differed, as have
their success.
   Ammophila is now so widespread on the west coast of the U. S. that its eradication is not practical unless a
more economic means of control is found.

                        Species Biology

   Ammophila is a perennial, rhizomatous grass native to coastal dunes in Europe between the latitudes of 30°
and 63° N. It spreads primarily by rhizomes, although viable seeds are produced. Long distance dispersal is
usually by marine transport of dormant rhizomes, which can withstand submersion for long periods (Baye 1990).
   Once established, Ammophila develops vigorous root and rhizome systems. Active sand burial stimulates
the production of rhizomes (Gemmell et al. 1953, Greig-Smith 1961). This growth pattern results in dense
clusters of shoots and in part accounts for Ammophila's dense growth habit and "phalanx-like" spread (Fig. 1).
Ammophila can tolerate more sand burial than the native dunegrass (Leymus mollis), but has a lower salt
tolerance. Without fresh sand burial, Ammophila declines in vigor. This phenomenon has been attributed to a
variety of factors, including exposure to pathogens that reduce the formation of new tillers (van der Putten et al.
1988). Fresh sand accumulation allows Ammophila to escape build-up of these organisms.

                       Introduction History

   Planting of Ammophila on west coast dunes was common in the first half of the twentieth century. First
introduced at Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, in the late 1800s (Lamson-Scribner 1895), the species was
heralded as a desirable sand stabilizer and was eventually embraced by U. S. Soil Conservation Service and
other agencies. Thousands of acres of west coast sand dunes were stabilized during this period (Reckendorf et
al. 1987), the majority located along the Oregon coast. As a result, the Oregon and Washington coastlines are
now largely lacking intact native foredune plant communities.
   The introduction and spread of Ammophila has been closely traced for the North Spit of the Humboldt Bay
dunes, providing a good illustration of its patterns of invasiveness. Buell et al. (1995) documented the extent of
Ammophila on the spit at intervals between 1901 (its first introduction) and 1989. After 1939 it expanded
exponentially, increasing over 600% in area. Despite multiple introduction dates and interactions with other
competing non-native species like yellow bush lupine (Lupinus arboreus), the rate of spread has been consistent
with invasion models (Hengeveld 1989, van den Bosch et al. 1992). The pattern of spread has been bimodal, as
described by Baker (1986) and Hengeveld (1989). Movement along foredunes has been via continuous
"wavefronts" while more inland areas have been characterized by "broken-up fronts" of independently
propagating foci.

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California Exotic Pest Plant Council                              1997 Symposium Proceedings

Table 1. Total Ammophila acreage in California dunes and in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, and
                 the amount expended on control in 1997.
              Ttl. Acres
Dune system         Ammo     Managing agency           Site/Project          Cost in 1997
Oregon Dunes        9,000    U.S. Forest Service         Oregon Dunes N.R.A.      $38,000
(Reedsport to Florence)         U.S. Bureau of Land Mgt.       Coos Bay Shorelands      $30,000
Lake Earl Dunes       1,300    Calif. Dept. of Parks & Rec.     Lake Earl State Park      No control
                     Calif. Dept. of Fish and Game    Lake Earl Wildlife Area    No control
Gold Bluffs Beach      200     National Park Service/Calif. Dept.  GoldBluffs Beach/Redwood    No control
                     of Parks & Rec.           National & State Parks
Freshwater Lagoon      3      U.S. Park Service/ Calif. Dept. of  Freshwater Lagoon / Redwood  No control
                     Parks & Rec.
Big, Dry. & Stone Lagoons  10      Calif. Dept. of Parks & Rec.     Humboldt Lagoons State Park  No control
Humboldt Bay Dunes     1,026    The Nature Conservancy        Lanphere-Christensen Dunes   $10,000
                     U.S. Bureau of Land Mgt.       Manila Dunes ACEC/ONA     $20,000+
                                       Samoa Dunes NRA        volunteer
                     Center for Natural Lands Mgt.    Manila Beach & Dunes/     $5,000+
                                       Eureka Dunes Protected Area  volunteer
                     Humboldt County           Mad River & Clam Beach     No control
                                       County Parks
                     Calif. Dept. of Parks & Rec.     Little River State Beach    No control
                     Calif. Dept. of Fish & Game     Eeel Rivei Wildlife Area    No control
Ten Mile Dunes       125     Calif. Dept. of Parks & Rec.     MacKerricher State Park &   $15.000
                                       Inglenook Fen-Ten Mile Dunes
Manchester Dunes      520     Calif. Dept. of Parks & Rec.     Manchester State Beach     No control
Bodega Bay         860     Calif. Dept. of Parks & Rec.     Sonoma Coast State Beach    No control
                     Univ. of Calif. Reserves       Bodega Marine Reserve     No control
Point Reyes         1,600    National Park Service        Abbott's Lagoon, Point Reyes  volunteer
                                       National Seashore
San Francisco Bay      11      National Park Service        Golden Gate NRA        volunteer
Monterey Coast Dunes    80      Calif. Dept. of Parks & Rec.     Zmudowski, Marina, Salinas   $3,000
                                       River, & Moss Landing
                                       State Beaches, Ft. Ord
Monterey Peninsular Dunes  7      Calif. Dept. of Parks & Rec.     Asiloma State Park       volunteer
Morro Bay Dunes       55      Calif. Dept. of Parks & Rec.     Montana de Oro State Park &  No control
                                       Morro Strand State Beach
Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes   275     The Nature Conservancy        Mobil Coastal Preserve     $1.000
                     Calif. Dept. of Parks & Rec.     Pismo Dunes State Reserve,   No control
                                       Oceano Dunes State Vehicular
                                       Rec. Area, & Oso Flaco Lake
                                       Natural Areas
San Antonio Terrace Dunes  80      U.S. Air Force            Vandenburg Air Force Base   $12,000

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California Exotic Pest Plant Council                           1997 Symposium Proceedings

           Fig. 1. The dense shoot pattern of Ammophila causes its phalanx-like spread.

                         Ecological Impacts

   Ammophila has had a devastating impact on the inherently restricted dune resources of the west coast.
Ammophila is a better sand accumulator than the native dunegrass, and creates a higher, steeper foredune,
decreasing sand flow to interior dunes (Wiedemann and Pickart 1996). Although cyclic stabilization of dunes is a
naturally occurring phenomenon in the Pacific Northwest regulated by tectonic events (Clark and Carver 1992,
Komar and Shih 1993), the presence of Ammophila shortens the time for stabilization, and in addition, drastically
alters natural succession (Wiedemann and Pickart 1996).
   Perhaps the most significant impact of Ammophila is its ability to displace entire native plant communities
with its phalanx-like mode of spread. The native dunegrass series (Sawyer and Keeler-Wolf 1995) is restricted to
the primary or first parallel foredune along the coast. Once occurring along most major dune systems of the west
coast north of Monterey, CA, this community is now restricted to only two location, at Point Reyes and Humboldt
Bay (Pickart and Sawyer, in press). The relatively more extensive sand verbena-beach bursage series, which once
occurred on semi-stable dunes along the entire coast, has also been tremendously impacted by the spread of
Ammophila. In a number of dune systems, especially those where Ammophila was deliberately planted and
cultivated, this community is near extirpation.
   Ammophila currently or potentially impacts six Federally listed endangered plants that occur on coastal dunes
of California: Chorizanthe howelld, C. pungens var. pungens, Erysimum menziesii, Gilia tenuiflora ssp. arenaria,
Layia camosa, and Lupinus fidestromii (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1997). The species is also detrimental to
the threatened western snowy plover, a shorebird that nests in open areas on the strand. Dense stands of
Ammophila directly displace nesting sites, and enhance cover for predators, thus decreasing nesting success (U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service 1995).


  Ammophila, with its extensive underground rhizome network, is extremely tenacious and its eradication has
proven to be a continuing challenge to managers. It has required a decade of research and experimental trials to
develop effective eradication techniques, and when applied on a large scale these methods show variable success
(Pickart and Sawyer, in press). The arsenal of known techniques now includes manual, mechanical, and
chemical alternatives, but refinements and other methods are still being sought.

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California Exotic Pest Plant Council                           1997 Symposium Proceedings

Manual Removal
   Manual removal has been used with great success, but at great expense, at the The Nature Conservancy's
(TNC) Lanphere-Christensen Dunes Preserve in Humboldt Bay dunes. The method was first tested and found to
be successful over a two-year period in small isolated stands (Pickart et al. 1990). Between 1992 and 1997, a
ten-acre area of Ammophila was subjected to repeated manual digging using California Conservation Corps
labor (Miller 1994). The area was divided into three sub-areas, each of which was initiated in a different year.
A patchwork of small stands comprised each sub-area to reduce erosion, but it was found that this was
unnecessary since dead Ammophila stubble provided sufficient stabilization. In fact, the use of small stands
increased edge and therefore cost.
   The first removal was carried out in March, as plants emerged from dormancy. A shovel was used to sever
rhizomes at a depth of about eight inches, since the majority of active rhizomes were found to be in this region.
Grass was piled and later burned. Resprouting occurred throughout the season, more vigorously at first. Crews
returned to pull and/or dig resprouts an average of eight times over the first season, and seven times the second
season. By the end of the second season plants were largely eradicated. Some of the stands were scattered in
remote areas and did not receive systematic treatment; these areas will require additional follow-up.
   Ammophila often hides small, relict native plants. After the Ammophila was removed, these plants
flourished, eliminating the need for revegetation. This is a significant benefit realized by the manual method, as
it is possible to selectively retain native plants. The elimination of revegetation work saves on costs and should
be considered in the choice of eradication method. By 1997, at the TNC site, native plant cover had reached
45% of the cover found in sites not invaded by Ammophila (Fig. 2).

            Fig. 2. Native plants colonizing an area formerly covered with Ammophila the
            The Nature Conservancy's Lanphere-Christensen Dunes Preserve.

   The amount of labor required to dig, pile, and burn beachgrass was 1,858 person-hours/acre. An additional
1,093 person-hours/acre were required for the time it took to transport CCC crews from the CCC center to the
site (90 minutes roundtrip) and to walk from the trailhead to the restoration area (90 minutes roundtnp). At the
current local CCC rate of $11.75/hour, the cost of removal was $21,831/acre and the cost of transportation was
$12,843/acre, for a total of $34,674/acre. This per-acre cost covers removal of a continuous beachgrass cover;
in actuality, beachgrass is often spread out over a larger area or mixed with native vegetation. The cost would
be significantly lower for a less remote site.
   The most labor-intensive part of manual control is the first dig, due to the large biomass, density of stems,
and the difficulty of severing rhizomes. To determine whether this first dig could be replaced with a labor-

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California Exotic Pest Plant Council                         1997 Symposium Proceedings

saving controlled burn, the Center for Natural Lands Management recently established an experiment at the
Manila Beach and Dunes in Humboldt Bay dunes. Burning is known to stimulate growth in Ammophila (Van
Hook 1983), and will presumably increase resprout vigor or density. However, it is hypothesized that the
increased labor required to remove resprouts after a burn may still represent a time savings over the initial dig.

Mechanical Removal
   Heavy equipment has been used extensively to control Ammophila at Oregon Dunes National Recreation
Area (NRA). The NRA has approximately 6,000 acres of Ammophila, with few remaining examples of intact
native plant communities. The U.S. Forest Service is primarily managing the beachgrass for western snowy
plower habitat, although restoration of native plant communities is a stated goal (Segotta 1995). Heavy
equipment is used in combination with manual and chemical control.
   Over the past 3 years, the Forest Service has treated a total of 45 acres of Ammophila with a D-8
Caterpillar. Ammophila is excavated and theoretically buried to a depth of 3 feet, although in actuality the depth
of burial is inconsistent and is often less than 3 feet, reducing the effectiveness of the treatment. Moderate
resprouting has occurred in these areas (Fig. 3), and requires manual follow-up. A single follow-up dig has been
effective, although insufficient for complete eradication. The use of herbicide as a follow-up to mechanical is
not effective because of the limited surface area exposed to the herbicide.

           Fig. 3. Resprouts; of Ammophila in an area previously treated using
             heavy equipment at Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.

   At the nearby Coos Bay Shorelands, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management used a different mechanical
treatment on 50 acres of Ammophila adjacent to a snowy plover nesting site (Rittenhouse, pers. comm.). In the
summer of 1996, the grass had been unsuccessfully treated with salt water. In fall 1996 a D-8 Caterpillar with a
wing ripper was used to "subsoil" or "rip" rhizomes 3 feet below the surface. In early March 1997 this treatment
was followed by a single manual pulling treatment. Plants were easily pulled by hand. This combination of
treatments appeared to be very effective (Fig. 4); however separating out the effects of earlier treatments
(disking, salt water) was not possible.
   Obviously, mechanical removal is only suitable for sites that are easily accessible, relatively flat, and
without significant numbers of native plant. The cost of this treatment has not been estimated, and varies
depending on whether equipment and operators are available to the managing agency. Compared with manual
removal, the method is more impact-intensive, detrimental to invertebrates and vestigial native plants. If the goal

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California Exotic Pest Plant Council                        1997 Symposium Proceedings

is to establish native plant communities, revegetation will be necessary. However, for a large area, and if done
with sufficient quality control, it should be more cost-effective than manual removal.

          Fig. 4. Only a few resprouts have returned in an area formerly dominated
           by Ammophila at Coos Bay Shorelands in Oregon. The site was treated
          unsuccessfully with salt water irrigation in summer 1996, "ripped" with a
           wing-ripper in fall 1996, and subjected to one hand-pull of resprouts in
              March 1997. The photograph was taken in August 1997.

Chemical Control
   Glyphosate (Roundup and Rodeo) has been used with some success on Ammophila, although its
effectiveness is dependent on consistency and thoroughness. A label recommendation of 8% Rodeo plus 0.5 to
1.5%nonionic surfactant (spray-to-wet) was developed for Oregon, Washington, and California following trials
by the California Department of Parks and Recreation, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the
Monsanto Company. Rodeo, a form of glyphosate without surfactant, was preferred in Oregon because of
concerns about groundwater contamination. Rodeo is approved for aquatic use because it lacks the
polyethoxylated tallowarnine present in the surfactant in Roundup. The label also recommends wiper
applications for selective control, using a 33% solution plus 1.0 to 2.5% nonionic surfactant and avoiding
contact with desirable vegetation. For either method, plants should be treated during periods of active growth.
   The use of Roundup to control Ammophila was tested extensively by the California Department of Parks
and Recreation and the University of California Davis at several California dune systems. Although results have
not been published, the investigator reports good success using a 10% solution with added surfactant (0.5%)
(Aptekar, pers. comm.). Since these experiments were carried out, the surfactant in Roundup has been
reformulated by Monsanto, which recommends no additional surfactant be added to Roundup-Pro or
Roundup-Ultra (McColly, pers. comm.).
   Herbicides have been used on Ammophila most extensively at the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.
In 1996-1997 about 60 acres of Ammophila were sprayed with an 8% solution of Rodeo (with surfactant) at
Tahkenitch and Ten Mile dunes. In the first year only one application was used. Results were inconsistent, with
some areas clearly missed. However, overall density and cover was significantly reduced (Segotta, pers. comm).
In the second year (1997), missed areas were resprayed, and new areas were given two applications, but results
are not yet available.
   Chemical treatment of Animophila is likely to be the most cost-effective method of those used to date.
There are, however, problems with this method. Herbicides have biological impacts and may be politically
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California Exotic Pest Plant Council                         1997 Symposium Proceedings

unacceptable in a given area or for a particular agency (for example, the Bureau of Land Management is under
an injunction prohibiting the use of herbicides on non-noxious weeds). When native plants are present, selective
spraying may be difficult or impossible. After spraying, dead biomass must be removed if revegetation is to
occur. If only a small amount of Ammophila regeneration occurs, it is infeasible to treat it with herbicide since
surface area will be insufficient. If complete eradication is desired, manual follow-up may still be required at an
additional cost, and the cost of revegetation must be added.
   The use of salt water as a method of chemical control was attempted over a 25-acre stand of Ammophila in
Coos Bay Shorelands by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 1996). A
six-cylinder diesel pump was used to supply by water to a sprinkler system. Sprinkler guns were moved along
lateral lines and operated for 24-hour periods, resulting in the deposition of about 12 inches of salt water. Three
12-inch applications were made between June and September, and were expected to raise soil salinity to at least
2% to a depth of 3 feet (the salt tolerance of Animophila is 1 to 1.5%). Although the treatment resulted in initial
browning, observations on the site indicated that salt water did not penetrate below the top 5 inches of the soil.
   There is still some interest in using salt water to control Ammophila. One drawback of this method is the
broad nature of its impacts. Although Ammophila's tolerance to salt water is lower than for some native plants,
the salt is likely to be toxic to some desirable plant species and to other organisms, including beneficial soil

                 The Need for a Regional Control Strategy

   Given the enormous extent of the Ammophila invasion on west coast dunes, and the high costs associated
with control, prioritization of efforts is essential. Funds should be expended on projects with the greatest
ecological return. As with other exotic plant infestations, prevention of expansion into any new, pristine areas is
critical. This principle is applicable at both local and regional scales. Region-wide (for the west coast, or a
given state), efforts should concentrate on dune systems that have only incipient populations of Ammophila. One
example of this situation is the Ten Mile dunes in Mendocino County. Although the nearby Manchester dunes
were targeted by early dune stabilizers, Ten Mile dunes somehow escaped this plight. Ammophila is a relatively
recent invader and occupies less than 125 acres of the 1,400-acre dune system. It is now spreading rapidly, and
the chance for early intervention is nearly past. A window of opportunity for control of this species will be gone
within half a decade. With scarce resources, the recognition of a priority like this at a regional level will help to
focus the efforts of the managing agency (in this case, State Parks).
   Near the southern limit of the range of Ammophila, it is tempting to ignore the species in favor of other more
visible exotics such as iceplant (Carpobrotus edulis) and veldt grass (Ehrharta calycina). The prevailing
perception is that Ammophila spreads less aggressively south of San Francisco than to the north. However, at
the Guadalupe-Nipomo dunes system, (one of the southernmost sites), Ammophila now occupies a total of 275
acres and is spreading exponentially through native vegetation, posing a serious threat to rare plants and nesting
snowy plovers (Chestnut 1997).
   In many California dune systems, multiple landowners and managers, make prioritization difficult. At
Humboldt Bay, dune agencies have formed an alliance known as the Dunes Forum in order to set regional
restoration priorities and to cooperate in fulfilling them. The Coastal Dunes Guild of the California Chapter,
Society of Ecological Restoration, has established an objective to inventory California dune resources carefully,
as the first step in setting state-wide priorities. However, funding sources to fulfill this objective have yet to be
identified. Until such priorities are set, competition within regions and within agencies for limited resources, as
well as inefficient expenditures will continue. Alternatively, with priorities in place, agencies can work together
to increase efficiency.


  Sincere thanks to the following individuals who provided estimates of Ammophila and control costs: Ken
Anderson, Travis Aria, David Chipping, Vince Cicero, Peter Connors, Chris Gillespie, Pete Holloran, Sarah
Koenig, Kerrie Palermo, Renee Pasquinelli, Bruce Rittenhouse, and Dan Segotta.

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California Exotic Pest Plant Council                                      1997 Symposium Proceedings

                                Literature Cited
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