Students compete with underwater robots they build themselves
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3 | The sandy dunes
The sand dunes of the Great Lakes region represent the largest freshwater coastal dunes in the world. These dunes, such as the Sleeping Bear Dunes on the northeastern shore of Lake Michigan, are only 3,000-4,000 years old - that's very young, geologically speaking!
How are dunes created?
Why are dunes important?
Dunes are also the home for many endangered and threatened animals and plants. The piping plover, a small shorebird, nests in the shoreline sand, often in the protection of a perched dune. Houghton's goldenrod, pitcher's thistle, and the dwarf lake iris are all examples of threatened plant species that live on the Great Lakes dunes.
Are all dunes the same?
Sand is used to make molds for cars, trains, and airplanes as well as glass and concrete products. Dune mining destroys a dune, and the sand that is obtained is a nonrenewable supply; once a dune is mined, it cannot be replaced. The Sand Dune Protection and Management Act was passed in 1976, but the Great Lakes region continues to lose many of its dunes, such as Pigeon Hill, Maggie Thorpe, and Creeping Joe, to dune mining.
Dunes are also threatened by tourism. Golf courses are often developed on dunes. And climbing dunes causes excessive erosion, damages native and rare plants, and can destroy nesting habitats for birds and animals. When hiking on dunes, it's important to stay on the designated trails!
Graphics: Sleeping Bear Dunes; Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore; Piping Plover; Pitcher's Thistle; Dune mining