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Dunes are a sanctuary to many unique and rare species, like the Fen Orchid, Natterjack Toad and Sand Lizard, but conventional dune management over many decades has created stable dunes that have become overgrown with vegetation. We now realise that this is putting these special places and the wildlife there at risk. As our understanding of what’s best for the dunes has changed, dune management has evolved. Healthy sand dunes need to be free to move and be dynamic and projects like Dynamic Dunescapes are undertaking new conservation methods to bring life back to the dunes by creating areas of open sand. 

A room full of people at the Dynamic Dunescapes conference

Celebrating work, partnerships and events

In March, in celebration of the work, partnerships, and events since Dynamic Dunescapes began, over 200 people came together for the project’s celebration conference. The goal? To explore the future of sand dune conservation, reflect on successes and challenges, and set future targets for conserving internationally important sand dune sites. The atmosphere was one of hope and sharing of experiences.  

The conference began with registration, surrounded by artwork, displays, and videos, recapping the amazing activities the engagement and conservation teams have been working on with communities across England and Wales. Dynamic Dunescapes has been a pioneering project, enabling conservation action, and supporting visitors and local community groups to explore and learn about the dunes in tandem. 

 Project highlights include:

  • The rejuvenation of 186 ha of sand dune and 50 ha of coastal wetland  
  • The removal of 116 ha of invasive flora such as Sea Buckthorn Hippophae rhamnoides 
  • ~90,000 people have joined public events including litter picks, art classes, and wildlife walks  

The sessions explored a range of topics with both guest local and international speakers and staff from across the project. Talks covered themes including activities with communities, invasive species management, mobilising sand, and conservation grazing on sand dunes. The closing day saw delegates look to the future, asking ourselves – what’s next? Where do we go from here? How can we be ambitious in helping dunes and their rare wildlife thrive?  

‘Where do we go next?’

Focused on the question ‘Where do we go next?’ the conference closing session was particularly impactful. Speakers from across the project took the opportunity to look ahead and Plantlife CEO Ian Dunn highlighted the importance of ‘having a changing approach to conservation in a changing world. The future is going to be extraordinarily dynamic, so we need to be too’. While others spoke of continuing to share experiences at a continental scale through further international meetings.  

Being a part of the Dynamic Dunescapes team has given me the joy of supporting so many new opportunities for people. From getting out and exploring sand dunes, to discovering something new or unexpected like the diversity of wildlife that calls a dune home. At the conference, the programme of over 30 talks both inspired and enabled myself and others to share our own experiences of working in these iconic landscapes.   

Hannah Lee on the dunes

How can we all support the conservation of sand dunes?

I’ve always been a big believer in conservation starts with learning and ‘seeing what’s out there’. If you want to find out more about any of the topics mentioned here, you can find a conference recap on the project’s YouTube channel. To learn more about the rejuvenation of dynamic sand dunes check out the project website for a short learning course on sand dunes or free activity resources that you can do from home.’ 

Dynamic Dunescapes is a pan England and Wales project funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the European LIFE programme. Work has been delivered in partnership by Natural England, Plantlife, National Trust, Natural Resources Wales and The Wildlife Trusts alongside other local groups and private landowners. 

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