Sea oats are well suited to saline environments, and as such, are important to barrier island ecology and are often used in soil stabilization projects because their long root structure firmly holds loose soil. For example, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a colony of sea oats has been planted at Commercial Beach. The oats are a crucial component of the area's hurricane defense strategy, having staved off storms Arthur through Sally in the 2008 hurricane season. If the sea oat colony survives, the oats and nascent dune structure they support are expected to flourish for the foreseeable future.
Sea oats are a protected grass in most states along the East Coast. Picking or disturbing sea oats is punishable by fine in Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, and North Carolina.