Coastal Sand Dunes

What is it?

Coastal sand dunes occur where sand is blown inland from beaches and deposited above the high water mark where it builds up into a series of low hillocks or ridges. They are widespread along the UK coast with their total extent estimated at 56,000 hectares with the highest proportion of that being in Scotland with at least 33,000ha.

What’s special about it?

Coastal sand dunes include a wide range of smaller-scale habitats ranging from dry to wet and from almost bare sand to near-continuous vegetation. Their ecological interest with birds, reptiles, insects, vascular plants, mosses, lichens and fungi all being common.

How do we benefit?

Coastal habitats provide a natural defence against storm threats – 50% of wave energy is dissipated in the first 10-20m of vegetated salt marsh. Coastal habitats are also important for rest, relaxation and recreation. Saltmarsh, sand dunes and machair also regulate the climate through carbon sequestration.

How could development affect it?

• Sea defences and stabilisation to protect holiday accommodation, housing and industry can damage or prevent their natural development.
• Coastal sand dunes are also vulnerable to afforestation and golf course development.
• Recreational facilities/activities can have adverse effects on dunes and their wildlife

Find out more>>

UKBAP list of priority habitats

Liverpool Hope University - Sand Dune and Shingle Network