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What is a sand dune?

Sand dunes are wild, dynamic landscapes. They are homes for wildlife, where carpets of orchids survive alongside songbirds, butterflies and an array of endangered insects. As a society we have forgotten the mystery of sand dunes.

They are more than just sand and less well-known is their role as a sanctuary for endangered plants and animals, like the Fen Orchid and sand lizard. Sand dunes in the UK look very different today than they did even just 100 years ago.

They are now missing the open sandy features which are homes for rare and special creatures, because bare sand has been replaced with dense vegetation and scrub. This is why our work to restore dunes is so vital.


Dunes at Night

Where are sand dunes in Wales?

If you would like to visit a sand dune, why not visit one of the sites we have protected?

  • Cymyran, Tywyn Trewan, Tywyn Llyn and Tywyn Fferam on Anglesey
  • Morfa Bychan in Gwynedd
  • Pembrey in Camarthenshire
  • Broughton, Oxwich and Penmaen burrows on Gower
  • Crymlyn and Baglan Burrows in Swansea

Dynamic Dunescapes also collaborated closely with Plantlife project Green Links Bridgend at Kenfig National Nature Reserve.

In addition to our work in Wales we have undertaken conservation management work in Braunton Burrows – Devon, working closely with National Trust, Christie Estates and the MOD.

A bee on a pretty Sea Holly bloom

What are the problems that dunes face?

Our coastal sand dunes are under threat. In fact, they are listed as one of the most at risk habitats in Europe for biodiversity loss.  

Since 1900, the UK’s sand dunes have declined by a third, and almost two-thirds in Wales.

One of the key problems is that many dunes are becoming more densely covered by vegetation and scrub and there is less bare open sand.

A lack of bare mobile sand is having negative impacts on many rare dune-specialised species that need areas of open sand to thrive. Healthy sand dunes need to move and be dynamic.

Helping sand dunes in Wales

Our work with Dynamic Dunescapes was a partnership funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the European LIFE fund and:

  • Worked across 7,000 hectares of coastal sand dunes
  • Restored 22 sand dune sites across England
  • Restored 11 sites in Wales

Plantlife’s work with local communities to explore and learn about dunes in both Wales and Devon with Dynamic Dunescapes ran from 2020-2023.

We have also:

  • Supported the restoration of sand dunes by raising awareness of pioneering conservation action. We have provided training for young people and volunteers to contribute to sand dune restoration.
  • Raised awareness that healthy dunes need moving sand. Previously, sand dune management favoured stabilisation of dunes and we now know that sand dunes need to be dynamic.
  • Encouraged more people to explore, enjoy, and help protect the dunes through. Our work delivered a programme of innovative public engagement and citizen science events and activities from guided walks to Tai chi and musical workshops.
  • Developed skills to manage dunes better, both now and in the future through in person and online training and workshops, supporting collaboration and increasing accessibility for all to dune landscapes.

Look back at:

With thanks to our partners