Coastal Ecology Program Updates
Updated: Oct 12, 2021
Endangered Species Program
We had a record number of piping plovers and least terns on Duxbury Beach this season. Historically, we have had less than 30 pairs of piping plovers and less than 300 pairs of least terns in any given year. However, this year our populations exceeded these numbers, with 31 pairs of piping plovers and 473 pairs of least terns. Additionally, one pair of American oystercatchers and one pair of common terns were observed on the beach throughout the summer, though no nesting attempts were confirmed for either species in 2021.
Nesting shorebirds on Duxbury Beach face a lot of challenges in any given year, and the inclement weather in 2021 hit them hard. The Memorial Day weekend storm washed out 15 piping plover nests, which “reset the clock” on nesting activity and extended the time restricted areas remained in place on the beach. Subsequent storms in June and July also contributed the wash out of several more nests, as well as countless least tern nests across all five colonies present on Duxbury Beach. Interestingly, due to the number of storms this season, large amounts of seaweed, or wrack, were deposited on the Oceanside beach regularly throughout the summer and provided a consistent source of food for many shorebirds all summer long. Access to this “buffet” meant that many broods did not attempt to cross to the bayside in 2021, and staff saw a significant decrease in the total number of crossing events this season.
Invasive Species Control
Japanese knotweed is a highly invasive species throughout the world. Once commonly planted as an ornamental garden plant, it wasn’t until it was too late that we learned how persistent this species can be. Knotweed spreads through rhizomes and can quickly spread under the ground and pop up yards away! It’s a fast growing plant and if left unattended can quickly choke out native plants. The Reservation has been battling knotweed on the beach for many years. Thankfully, due to the dedication of staff, trustees, and volunteers the stands are reasonably under control and constrained to the areas around the High Pines area.
During the 2021 season we changed our methodology for combating knotweed, increasing our efforts from two or three times a year to an aggressive biweekly schedule from June-July and weekly from August-October. Dozens of volunteers came to help us remove cut knotweed in an attempt to exhaust its nutrient stores so that it has a harder time surviving the winter and coming back next year. It will be a long time before we’re close to eradicating knotweed from the beach, but we’re hopeful this new method is a step in the right direction. Time will tell!