Journal of Coastal Conservation

, Volume 21, Issue 5, pp 685–717 | Cite as

Evolution of a sediment-starved, over-stabilised dunefield: Kenfig Burrows, South Wales, UK

  • K. PyeEmail author
  • S. J. Blott


The past few decades have seen a progressive reduction in the extent of mobile dune systems and early successional stage habitats in many parts of NW Europe. The evidence suggests that a number of factors have contributed to this process, but their relative importance remains uncertain. This paper examines the nature and possible causes of geomorphological and vegetation changes at Kenfig Burrows, South Wales, a site of European nature conservation importance. This dune system is interpreted to have evolved from a sand barrier system which formerly existed to seaward of the present shoreline and which moved landwards and broke down during the later Holocene, driven by rising sea level and periods of more frequent storms. Most of the inland sand invasion occurred during the Little Ice Age, and large-scale sand-blowing continued until the early twentieth century, by which time the shoreline in the area had reached a state of quasi-equilibrium and a trend towards stabilization began, encouraged by exhaustion of marine sand supply and a change towards warmer, wetter and less windy conditions. Stabilization after the 1940–50s was also favoured by other factors, including reduced grazing by livestock and rabbits, reduced physical disturbance, increased nitrogen deposition, and sand dune management measures. By the 1980s the dunes were almost entirely stabilized. Natural reactivation of the surface sand is unlikely given the existing balance between the factors which favour dune mobility (frequent occurrence of sand-moving winds and high sand supply), and those which encourage vegetation growth and dune stability (high precipitation, high temperatures, low wind speeds, high rates of nitrogen deposition and low grazing / disturbance pressure). Since 2012 trials have been underway to determine if it is possible to increase the mobility of the dune system through intervention measures, including turf stripping and creation of artificial ‘notches’ to increase local wind speeds and sand-transport, but it will be several years before the effectiveness of these measures is known.


Kenfig Burrows Sand dunes South Wales 



We thank David Carrington (Bridgend Council and site manager), Mike Howe, Nicky Rimington, Emmer Litt, Ceri Seaton and Scott Hand (Natural Resources Wales) for practical support and discussion, and two referees for helpful comments on an earlier version of the paper.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Kenneth Pye Associates Ltd, Blythe Valley Innovation CentreSolihullUK

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