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What is a sand dune?

Sand dunes are wild, iconic landscapes. They are homes for wildlife, where carpets of orchids survive alongside songbirds, butterflies and an array of endangered insects.Picnics in a sheltered hollow, hide and seek… sand dunes are a natural and familiar playground but 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. Gone are many of the open sandy features which are homes for rare and special creatures, because bare sand has been replaced with dense vegetation and scrub.

How is Plantlife Cymru involved in sand dunes?

Dynamic Dunescapes is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the European LIFE fund. The project is a partnership between Natural England, Plantlife, National Trust, Natural Resources Wales and The Wildlife Trusts. Beginning in 2020 the project set out with the aim to: 

  • Work across 7,000 hectares of coastal sand dune,  
  • Restore 22 sand dune sites across England  
  • Restore 11 sites in Wales.  

Plantlife works in both Wales and Devon and our Dynamic Dunescapes will continue to the end of 2023. 

Where are sand dunes in Wales?

During the project we have been working at: 

  • 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 collaborates closely with Plantlife project Green Links Bridgend at Kenfig National Nature Reserve.  

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

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.  

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. 

So what have we been doing?

Since work began in 2020 we have been working with communities in both North and South Wales to support people to explore and learn about the dunes of Wales. Our work has also supported the conservation activities of our partner organisations in Wales.  

We have been: 

  • Supporting the restoration of sand dunes by raising awareness of pioneering conservation action. We have been facilitating training for young people and volunteers to contribute to sand dune restoration. 
  • Raising 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. 
  • Encouraging more people to explore, enjoy, and help protect the dunes through. Our work delivers a programme of innovative public engagement and citizen science events and activities from guided walks to Tai chi and  musical workshops. 
  • Develop skills to manage dunes better, both now and in the future through in person and online training and workshops. The aim of our events is to support collaboration and increase accessibility for all to dune landscapes. 

Can I get involved?

Yes! There are plenty of opportunities to get involved with events and volunteering or citizen science opportunities, so you can help bring our sand dunes back to health either with us or our partner organisations. You can also follow the project’s progress on their heir website, Twitter, Instagram or Facebook or sign up to the Dynamic Dunescapes mailing list to keep updated on our progress

With thanks to our partners