Our sand dunes need our help
Sand dunes are ever-changing structures that characterise our coastline. All dunes begin life as a singular grain of sand or shell fragment, blown inland by the offshore winds which accumulate on vegetation above the strandline
Overtime, our distinct mountains of sand have formed, standing at the forefront of our coastal weather systems and naturally shifting. Some of Cumbria’s sand dune systems started to form five thousand years ago
As hostile as these environments may at first seem, dunes are internationally important habitats. They are home to an array of wildlife and are a sanctuary to rare species like the fen orchid and sand lizard.
However, did you know dunes are listed as one of the most threatened environments in Europe for biodiversity loss and only 20,000 hectares remain in England and Wales?
A national three year project has developed to help our dunes. Dynamic Dunescapes is a partnership project restoring sand dunes across England and Wales for the benefit of wildlife, people and communities, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the EU LIFE Programme.
We are lucky to have many specialised species that live on our Cumbrian coast. A large population of natterjack toads can be found at Haverigg, northern dune tiger beetles are recorded at Drigg and only one other site in the UK and many orchids live on our dunes too that rely on bare sand to thrive. However, over many decades, dunes have become overgrown with scrub and vegetation and have stabilised, causing fragmentation and habitat loss. This is because of loss of rabbit populations due to disease, change in land use and grazing regimes, as well as climate change encouraging invasive species such as Rosa rugosa to take over and outcompete native species too. Healthy sand dunes need to be free to move and be dynamic for species to thrive.
Dynamic Dunescapes will work with locals and national experts, and involve schools and local groups, volunteers and visitors of all ages and abilities to help rejuvenate our dunes. Working across 11 sites in Cumbria including Grune Point, Mawbray Banks, Drigg, Eskmeals, Haverigg, Roanhead, Sandscale Haws, North Walney, West of Airfield and South Walney. We will also be working in Fleetwood in Lancashire too. Led by Cumbria Wildlife Trust and Natural England. Other project partners include Plantlife, National Trust, Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, Cornwall Wildlife Trust and Natural Resources Wales.
Helping wildlife on the dunes in Cumbria
A range of conservation works will be happening across Cumbria as part of Dynamic Dunescapes over the next three years to support our wildlife:
– Dune slack ponds will be created and restored to provide suitable breeding habitats for natterjack toads and specialised plants
– Invasive plants such as Rosa rugosa (Japanese rose) will be carefully removed from areas of dunes
– Scrub control will take place to improve conditions in dune grassland, supporting a variety of wildflowers and insects
– Areas of bare sand will be created for rare native plants and animals to flourish
– Work will be undertaken to restore seabird colonies and rabbit populations
– Controlled cattle grazing will be introduced on selected sites to help keep vegetation in favorable condition and create more suitable habitat for breeding natterjack toads and ground nesting birds
Cumbria wildlife Trust have an Engagement Officer, Eve Mulholland, who is creating lots of fantastic events and ways for you to get involved in dune conservation and enjoy discovering the dunes with your family. For instance, completing a booklet of dune-inspired activities and working towards the selfguided John Muir Dune Discovery award, which has been created in partnership with the John Muir Trust.
We will be seeking volunteers to get involved in citizen science and species surveying, practical work and litter picking once restrictions have eased and it is safe to do so.
If you would like to find out more about the project, take part in the John Muir Award and sign up to our newsletter please visit:
www.dynamicdunescapes.org.uk To register an interest as a volunteer, keep up to date with events and activities visit: www.cumbriawildlifetrust.org.uk or join us on social media @cumbriadunes