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Restoring dynamic dunescapes at Braunton Burrows

Plantlife has continued to lead the biggest sand dune restoration works ever attempted in the UK, with impressive results.

A tall grass plant is in the foreground and a cool grassy dunescape is in the background

Our Dynamic Dunescapes partnership project has gained further momentum over the past year with the restoration of additional habitat for the benefit of some of our rarest plants and animals.  

The initiative aims to protect the exceptionally biodiverse sand dunes at Braunton Burrows in north Devon. It has seen Plantlife, Natural England, the National Trust and Christie Estates, which own Braunton Burrows, join forces to rejuvenate and proactively manage these unique habitats for our native species.


A habitat like no other

Surveys carried out at Braunton Burrows have shown it is home to a huge diversity of threatened species, including:   

  • 17 of the 19 UK National Vegetation Classification sand dune plant communities.   
  • At least 22 threatened, near-threatened and/or nationally rare or scarce species of vascular plants. 
  • A significant number of Annex I and II habitats and species under the EU Habitats Directive. 

Traditionally, plants at Braunton Burrows have thrived on its low nutrient, calcareous sands. However, conditions have changed dramatically over the last 80 years, with bare sand reducing from over 65% to just 3%. This has impacted significantly on dune specialist plants, which need open areas of bare sand and mobile dunes to flourish.

Our work to restore our vital sand dunes  

Together with partners, we have used funding from the EU and Heritage Lottery Fund to:   

  • Restore a further 12 hectares of dune slacks to provide habitats for some of our rarest plants and animals. This takes the total restored to 22 hectares over the past 2 years. 
  • Form 6 ‘notches’ in the fontal dunes to funnel fresh sand into the dune system. 
  • Remove 2 hectares of dominant, invasive species which are threatening native plants. 

We have also continued to survey the initial trial plots we created at Braunton Burrows some years ago. The results have been incredibly encouraging and show dramatic new populations of some of our most rare and threatened species are beginning to emerge. 

More ‘Protect and Restore’ Projects

Conservation of rare Brecks flora gathers pace
Four people are kneeling on a brown dry ground surrounding a square on the ground

Conservation of rare Brecks flora gathers pace

It has been another successful year for our dedicated volunteers who are helping to monitor plant populations in the Brecks.

Monitor our habitats with the help of citizen scientists
Rachel Murphy standing in a field filling in a paper form using a yellow pencil in her hands

Monitor our habitats with the help of citizen scientists

The dedication of hundreds of National Plant Monitoring Scheme (NPMS) volunteers across the UK is continuing to support research into the health of our habitats.

Creating and restoring habitats at our nature reserves
Two person working on a log, one is shaving the wood log and the other holding the log in the woodland.

Creating and restoring habitats at our nature reserves

We have enhanced habitats at Greena Moor, our culm grassland nature reserve in north Cornwall, for the benefit of three critical species.