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Ambio. 2011 November; 40(7): 819–823.
Published online 2011 March 24. doi:  10.1007/s13280-011-0144-6
PMCID: PMC3357747

A Native Species with Invasive Behaviour in Coastal Dunes: Evidence for Progressing Decay and Homogenization of Habitat Types


A new species has recently invaded coastal dune ecosystems in North West Europe. The native and expansive inland grass, Deschampsia flexuosa, progressively dominating inland heaths, has recently invaded coastal dunes in Denmark, occasionally even as a dominant species. A total of 222 coastal locations with 5,000 random sample plots have been investigated. These findings are in contrast to historical records, and D. flexuosa has never been considered belonging to coastal dune ecosystems. The occurrence of the typical inland grass in the coastal dunes is a strong indication of increase in nutrient level and that human influences may cause a native species to be invasive in new ecosystems. This could be a radical example of change in species composition due to a long lasting exceedance of critical load of nitrogen. The investigation also showed a general increase in cover of the most dominant species.

Keywords: Eutrofication, Habitat types, Dunes, succession, Pinpoint, Critical load

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