With over 275,000 acres of sand dunes lining the shores of Lake Michigan, Michigan is home to the largest freshwater dune system in the world. This area contains a combination of dunes, coastal bluffs, and Great Lake marshes which provide a great deal of economic and ecological value to the state. Despite the huge affects that these dunes have on the state’s economy and ecology, only 70,000 acres are currently protected as further pressure is felt due to the rapid development of coastlands throughout the state.
The creation of the Michigan Dune Alliance in 1999 helped to alleviate some of the pressure being felt by the state’s dune system as it works towards the conservation of these impressive landforms through collaborative efforts. Striving to protect Michigan’s west coast from border to bridge, The Michigan Dune Alliance is working towards a coordinated coastal effort and the creation of a unified vision for coastal conservation. Made up primarily of land conservancies and a variety of other organizations, the Dune Alliance is taking steps forward towards their conservation and stewardship goals.
By working together towards a collective goal, The Michigan Dune Alliance has the ability rely on the strengths of involved organizations and employ the help of the most appropriate organization or agency in their mission of seeking to secure a safe and successful future for this area which contains over thirty percent of the states endangered and threatened species. This is a unique organization that has realized the importance and possibilities associated with teamwork and have the ability to see the potential possible when resources are combined for a better Michigan coastline.
Natural Dune Systems
There are two major dune types in Michigan: parabolic and perched. Most parabolic, or U-shaped, dunes are found along the Lower Peninsula’s Lake Michigan shoreline. They are shaped by wind, water, and native vegetation. Perched dunes are found atop bluffs of varying heights. They are not all sand and can be found mostly along the northwest shore of the Lower Peninsula.
Dune and Swale Complex
A series of roughly parallel, sandy ridges and low, wet troughs of land formed from irregular cycles of high and low water levels, dune and swale complex is globally rare, occurring only along the Great Lakes shoreline and dominated by open marsh with grasses, sedges, and ferns.
Steep faces of sediment or soil composed of sand, gravel, or clay along the Great Lakes shoreline, coastal bluffs supply large amounts of sand to perched dunes and other dune formations through erosion and subsequent natural movement of sand along the shoreline.
Michigan’s coastal systems feature many different types of forests, an important stabilizing element for the dunes as they help slow the erosion process. In dune systems, forests naturally grow over time. In fact, Michigan’s oldest forested dunes were once open and sandy.
Great Lakes Marsh
Michigan is home to a special kind of wetland unique to our region: Great Lakes marshes. They regulate floods, filter water, and provide breeding grounds for numerous species. By protecting Great Lakes marshes, we protect the very waters that lead into our precious Great Lakes, the world’s largest freshwater system.