Journal of Coastal Conservation

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 27–54 | Cite as

Coastal dune stabilization in Wales and requirements for rejuvenation

Article

Abstract

Welsh coastal dune systems have become increasingly vegetated in recent decades. Several rare species of plants and invertebrates have declined dramatically in abundance, and in some areas lost entirely. Of the ten dune habitats and species recognized as being features of European importance within the Welsh Natura 2000 sites, nine are currently in Unfavourable condition on at least one site. The decline in active aeolian processes has also reduced the geomorphological interest of the sites, several of which were designated as Geological Conservation Review sites principally on the basis of their physical processes and landforms. The decline in bare sand area between the 1940-50s and 2009 has been quantified at twelve Welsh dune sites using aerial photography and GIS. The decline ranged from 41 % at Gronant Dunes and Talacre Warren to 97 % at Kenfig Burrows, with an average of 81 %. Morfa Dyffryn had the highest remaining percentage of bare sand in 2009 (20 %), with 30–40 % coverage of mobile dune and pioneer communities, while seven sites had < 5 % bare sand. Dune stabilization over the past 60 years has been favoured by a number of factors, including less windy conditions, higher temperatures and longer growing season, increased atmospheric nitrogen deposition, a reduction in grazing intensity, and dune management policies aimed at controlling mobile sand. Climate change projections suggest that, in the next 50 to 100 years, Wales and adjoining areas are likely to experience higher temperatures and higher rainfall, especially in winter, and a further slight reduction in wind speeds. Without intervention, dune and dune slack habitats are likely to be increasingly replaced by fixed dune grassland and scrub, resulting in the extinction of rare plants, invertebrates and other species which require open, mobile conditions. Several intervention options exist, ranging in scale and potential impact. Increased livestock grazing, re-introduction of rabbits, scrub clearance, turf stripping and the creation of shallow ‘scrapes’ can be beneficial but will not by themselves create self-sustaining mobile dunes. In order to have any chance of achieving any significant impact, larger-scale intervention measures, involving large-scale vegetation removal and sand-re-profiling, will be required. At least in the short-term, maintenance measures will be required to prevent vegetation re-growth, and the challenge will be to encourage the development of mobile dune features which will be naturally mobile in the medium to longer term.

Keywords

Wales Sand dunes Geomorphology Rejuvenation 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This paper is based largely on research supported by the Countryside Council for Wales, the Welsh Government and Natural Resources Wales. Additional financial support was provided by Plantlife. We thank Kim Norman (BHP Billiton), Ifan Jones (Snowdonia National Park Authority), Siân Musgrave and Richard Ellis (National Trust), David Carrington (Bridgend Borough Council), Jon Hudson, Sid Howells, Ziggy Otto, Jenny Higgins, Nick Edwards, Graham Dockerty, John Ratcliffe, Graham Williams, Isobelle Griffiths, Ceri Seaton, Emmer Litt, Dylan Lloyd, Nicola Rimington, Scott Hand, Nick Thomas and Peter Rhind (NRW) for provision of local site information and discussion in the field.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Kenneth Pye Associates LtdBlythe Valley Innovation CentreSolihullUK
  2. 2.Natural Resources WalesBangorUK

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