CORVALLIS, Ore. – George Poinar Jr. has developed an international reputation for his discovery and analysis of a variety of organisms trapped in amber, but the Oregon State University scientist is also a storehouse of knowledge on another topic – sand dunes.
A new book by Poinar, “A Naturalist’s Guide to the Hidden World of Pacific Northwest Dunes,” outlines the unique habitat these features provide for plants, animals and insects from northern California to British Columbia.
The 288-page paperback has just been published by the Oregon State University Press. It is available at bookstores or can be ordered online at: http://osupress.oregonstate.edu
“George Poinar’s in-depth knowledge of this hidden world is unsurpassed – and his enthusiasm for it is infectious,” said Marty Brown, marketing manager for the OSU Press. “He has been investigating and photographing specimens along the Pacific Coast for more than four decades, and presents this trove of knowledge to the reader in a clear, engaging style.”
Nature lovers, beachcombers, naturalists and others will benefit from Poinar’s description of the oft-neglected world of Pacific Northwest sand dunes. He begins the book at the water’s edge, where kelp and seaweed communities foster an entire “web of life,” from the detritivores that feed on dead and decaying material to beach hoppers, kelp flies, beach rove beetles and others.
Driftwood that washes ashore creates its own community, with detritivores including white worms, termites, a variety of beetles, borers and weevils. They are preyed upon by gulls, the American crow, numerous spider species and larger beetles.
Strand plant communities encompass the furthest reach of the tides – from the lowest minus tide to the high-water mark. Plants living there not only have to survive intermittent seawater, but offshore winds that “test the strength of their stems, leaves, and roots, grind abrasive sand particles against them, and occasionally bury them entirely,” Poinar writes.
Then there are the dune communities, where Poinar focuses much of his book. These regions of windblown sand have few nutrients, little available freshwater, and can be heated by the sun – even in Oregon – to 120 degrees, or cooled by a marine fog layer virtually any month of the year.
Yet despite these challenges, they harbor a vast array of plants and animals, from beach strawberries, grasses and the beautiful blooming beach pea, to deer, lizards, garter snakes, ground squirrels and, of course, a host of insects.
Writes Poinar: “These ecosystems are the result of thousands of years of plate tectonics, glaciation, ocean currents, and wind and water erosion. While some organisms occur along the entire coastline, different physical and climatic conditions result in different biota occurring at various locations and during different seasons….
“While exploring this sandy realm, remember the ancient Indian proverb: ‘Treat the Earth well; it is not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children.’”