I just got back from a business trip to South Carolina. A sight observed during a walk down to their beach puts into perspective the chatter and debate about the small engineered dune systems (translation: small piles of sand with a little dune grass planted on top) being reconstructed and/or newly-considered (and in some cases protested) on beach fronts in my home state of NJ versus more expansive and robust natural dunes (pictured) such as those in the Pawley’s Island area that were embraced and incorporated in their development.
Some may debate, with validity, whether the development shown in this photo is too close to the ocean, but it can’t be debated that dunes such as these provide far better protection than the little piles of sand we call dunes in NJ. Except for some preserved areas (such as those in Sandy Hook, Island Beach State Park, Barnegat Light, Forsythe, etc.), dunes such as these are the exception, rather than the rule, in NJ, which is a shame as they provide far better protection to that which lies behind them, be it natural habitat, wildlife, or people and their possessions such as homes, businesses, and infrastructure.
As you can see, there are multiple tiers and elevations to this dune, the vegetation is far denser and more diverse than what we see on ours, and if you click through to the full-size image you can see how elevated walkways were constructed over the dunes rather than cut through them, which would weaken their integrity during storm surge events with significant wave action.
Something to consider in the ongoing debate.