Threatened sand dunes given new lease of LIFE

Barrie Wilkinson

Sand dunes across England are set for a golden future following £4.3 million worth of funding to help restore and protect these at risk habitats.

The funding awarded to a partnership led by Natural England as part of the European Union’s LIFE programme will help deliver a major conservation project to explore how to re-establish the natural movement within dunes and create the conditions that some of our rarest wildlife relies upon.

Healthy sand dunes with moving sand are a sanctuary for endangered plants and animals like the natterjack toad, dune gentian and sand lizard. However these habitats are currently being smothered and fixed by a tide of invasive non-native plants turning it into scrubland. Sand dunes are now one of the most at risk habitats in Europe. Only 20,000 hectares remain across England and Wales – an area around half the size of the Isle of Wight.

Natural England are working in partnership with The Wildlife Trusts, Plantlife, and National Trust to deliver this ambitious and innovative project.

Our sand dunes don’t just provide wildlife with a home, and us with such experiences but they act as a natural flood defence.
Stephanie Hilborne OBE
CEO of The Wildlife Trusts

The DuneLIFE project will help Natural England improve the condition of key sand dune sites in Lincolnshire, Dorset, Cornwall, Devon, Merseyside and Cumbria by tackling the root causes of decline. The scheme will:

  • Deliver a programme of removal of invasive species to rebalance the natural processes of dune colonisation
  • Restore sand dunes and dune slacks
  • Create bare sand patches by turf stripping and sand scraping
  • Encourage more people to access and enjoy dunes and take part in their conservation

In Lincolnshire, this project will be helping the sand dune site at Gibraltar Point, where the scheme will be focusing on:

  • Site interpretation and a national promotion programme
  • Community education activities, including a schools programme
  • Adult and youth volunteering programmes

To find out more about Gibraltar Point NNR, find the reserves page here.

We are looking forward to helping people breathe new life in to our dunes across Lincolnshire. Thanks to funding from the EU LIFE programme there is a great chance to help many people work together to change the natural world for the better.
Stephanie Hilborne OBE
CEO of The Wildlife Trusts

This successful LIFE bid marks an important step towards a larger programme of sand dune conservation work around the coast of England and Wales which has already gained initial support* for over £4milllion of National Lottery funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Natural England are working in partnership with Natural Resources Wales, Plantlife, National Trust, and The Wildlife Trusts to deliver this ambitious project.

Natterjack toad

Natterjack toad at Saltfleetby - Peter Roworth