Dynamic Dunescapes aims to foster our dunes

As a country whose borders are purely coastal, the UK has its attention fixated on the sea more than some of its neighbours.

Spend even a few hours on a typical UK beach, and you’ll be unable to avoid spotting the odd natural feature that is a standard part of any such place: a cliff, a bit of shingle or even a sand bar, a rock pool or an array of dunes. Sand dunes might look like simple sandy mounds home to simple plant life, but they are actually important habitats, and need our help.

The roots that bind

Dunes are typically formed naturally over many years, when sand is blown around a beach, before being trapped around specific plants known as beach grasses, such as sand couch and lyme grass. They are instantly recognisable, usually forming in parallel to the beach itself. These sandy, grassy ridges become nice and sturdy over time, held together tightly as sand grasses have strong horizontal roots, which bind the sandy soil together.

Just as Filao trees help bind sandy soil together in Senegal, the beach grasses which help constitute dunes do their bit to conserve the beach and stop coastal erosion from destroying the beach entirely. Without dunes, beaches would be sand on the wind, and offer no habitat for anything. Just as coral reefs out at sea help offer a safe haven to marine life, dunes help harbour small life forms and bring life to what might seem like a desolate and dangerous place. That being said, dunes do require some movement over time in order to stay healthy places, so conservationists will be eager to stop a process known as stabilisation from taking hold. The typical sand dune is a cosy place, home to a wide variety of plants including orchids, small insects, and can even host rare lizards and other reptiles native to the UK. Dunes also give birds a place to stay, and the wide variety of bugs present help give them plenty of food in order to flit around the beaches, safe in the knowledge that they can feed themselves and their chicks.

A mound of trouble

However, dunes don’t exist in a vacuum. Without some help from humans, dunes might disappear from our beaches, along with the flora and fauna that call them home. Dynamic Dunescapes is actively doing its bit to help protect dunes all across England and Wales. The organisation uses what it describes as pioneering conservation techniques to help breathe new life back into old dunes.

In order to foster existing dunes, Dynamic Dunescapes uses techniques such as shaping areas of bare sand, and helping remove invasive species of flora, allowing studier native beach grasses to flourish without having to compete to survive. Dynamic Dunescapes says dunes are listed as the habitat most at risk in the whole of Europe, due to issues such as stabilisation, where the dune isn’t able to slowly move freely.

A variety of species have adapted to live amoung the shifting sands of our dune systems here in the UK

Other issues such as aforementioned invasive species of flora and fauna can also wreak havoc, reducing biodiversity and disrupting whole ecosystems. No two dune projects that Dynamic Dunescapes works on are ever the same, but they often require removal of invasive plants, a light scraping of soil to help keep parts of the dunes bare to prevent stabilisation as well as using tractors to build ‘notches’ to encourage the movement of sand.

Such proactive techniques are integral to ensuring that sand dunes remain a consistent yet shifting part of our beaches for many more generations to come.

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