While the beauty and charm of St. Simons Island is undeniable, it and all other barrier islands serve an extremely important purpose in the environment. Barrier islands act as a buffer against storm surges, are a home to many endangered, threatened and protected species, improve water quality and minimize erosion. Keeping these islands in great condition is vital to the health and resilience of the Georgia coast. Although barrier islands such as St. Simons are effective at absorbing wind and wave energy from storms, they are also very fragile ecosystems that are constantly changing.
However, for the past four to five thousand years, Georgia’s barrier islands have remained stable enough to develop magnificent maritime forests, which add to the island’s efficacy at resisting wind and wave energy while also providing a temperature regulated home for different species of plants and animals. The beaches formed by continuous wave action act as a haven for creatures such as ghost crabs, sand fleas, and shorebirds. Sand dunes formed by steady wind are protected by hardy sea oats and resilient wax myrtle, and the salt marshes protected by the outer island are a hub of activity for an assortment of birds, insects and aquatic animals. If we continue protecting our island from overdevelopment, beautiful formations like these will continue to occur and biodiversity will remain at some of the highest levels in the southeast.
As of now, Georgia has the least disturbed coastline of the eastern United States. Development of these delicate areas only increases the difficulty of maintaining them and allowing them to remain a stable home to a diversity of plant and animal species. That is why we at the St. Simons Land Trust feel as though it is our responsibility to protect and preserve these areas, with the help of our wonderful community members, so that our coastlines remain strong, beautiful and habitable for future generations.