Our sand dunes are under threat, but new funding could restore them to health

Sand dunes are an much-loved part of our coastline, but they have been in decline for decades. Now a new project aims to protect the dunes and the rare animals who live in them — with over £4m of funding.

It seems fitting that, as many of us head for the beach this summer, sand dunes in England and Wales are to benefit from over £4m of Lottery funding to help restore and protect these unique habitats, aiming to reverse over 100 years of decline.

As it turns out, sand dunes are being smothered by invasive plants, destroying the habitats of some of our most endangered species. Now, a pioneering partnership – Dynamic Dunescapes – is stepping in to save them by working with people to bring life back to the dunes and get them thriving again – reversing a decades old approach to dune management.

Sand dunes are listed as the habitat most at risk in Europe. Since 1900, the UK’s sand dunes have declined by a third, and almost two-thirds in Wales. They provide sanctuary for endangered plants and animals with 70 priority species living in dune habitats including the natterjack toad, dune gentian and sand lizard.

Chairman of Natural England, Andrew Sells, said: ‘Sand dunes are a familiar backdrop to a day at the beach, but few people realise the serious threat they face across Europe. I am delighted that we have this exciting opportunity to work with our partners to safeguard these wildlife-rich habitats for future generations.’

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Stephanie Hilborne, CEO of The Wildlife Trusts, added: ‘Everyone should have the opportunity to experience the joy of standing amidst a sand dune.

‘These are wild places and when you stand amongst the marram grass and sea holly, listening to the sound of the surf and the call of the stonechats you may look up to see a raven wheeling above.

Our sand dunes don’t just provide wildlife with a home, and us with such experiences but they act as a natural flood defence. So this partnership is an exciting new development.’