Marram grass

What we're doing

Sands of LIFE is a major conservation project to revitalise sand dunes across Wales which runs until December 2022. It will recreate natural movement in the dunes and rejuvenate habitats which are home to some of our rarest wildlife.

The £4 million project, led by Natural Resources Wales (NRW), will restore over 2400 hectares of sand dunes, across four Special Areas of Conservation, on 10 separate Welsh sites:

Anglesey & Menai Strait

Meirionyddshire

Carmarthen Bay

  • Laugharne - Pendine Burrows
  • Pembrey Coast
  • Whiteford Burrows

Bridgend

  • Kenfig
  • Merthyr Mawr

Why healthy sand dunes are important

Sand dunes are wild, iconic landscapes. They are biodiversity hotspots where carpets of orchids still survive alongside song birds, butterflies, and a wide array of endangered insects.

Dunes are prized by locals and visitors for their unique character, a backdrop to a day on the beach and every child’s perfect natural playground.

Healthy dunes have plenty of bare sand and are constantly in motion. Sand hills are built, blow out and are built again. Unique and specialised communities of plants and invertebrates are constantly re-colonising the open space.

As well as being reservoirs of biodiversity, our sand dunes help safeguard our wider environment by providing a natural solution to flood defence and coastal erosion as well as maintaining water flows and supporting vital pollinators, such as bees and butterflies.

Changes to sand dunes

Over the last 80 years, nearly 90% of the open sand has disappeared being replaced by dense grass and scrub. The dunes have become stable and fixed, and rare wildlife has disappeared.

This change has been caused by factors such as the introduction of non-native plants, lack of traditional grazing, a declining rabbit population and air pollution.

Action we're taking

The project will rejuvenate these internationally important sand dune sites through an ambitious range of actions:

  • re-profiling dunes and creating bare sand to allow sand to move again
  • lowering the surface of dried-out dune slacks (hollows) to re-create pools and wet habitat
  • promote sustainable grazing practices by livestock and rabbits
  • remove scrub and invasive non-native species which are smothering and stabilising the dunes

There will also be an extensive programme of before-and-after monitoring to track the project’s progress.

Our work with communities

Through Sands of LIFE, we'll engage with local communities to raise awareness of the value and importance of sand dunes to people and the environment. The project will also enable knowledge-sharing on sand dune management with others both in Wales and further afield.

The project will also contribute towards Wales’ Wellbeing Goals by:

  • supporting traditional farming practice
  • creating economic opportunities for business
  • training and developing a new generation of environmental managers
  • enabling more people to use and enjoy the dunes, which in turn encourages exercise, health and wellbeing

Learn more about sand dunes

Read our news and blogs

Rejuvenating our sand dunes - 7 October 2019

New LIFE to Welsh sand dunes - 7 August 2018

Summer in the sand dunes - 30 May 2018

What impact has lockdown had on the Sands of LIFE project? - 28 May 2020

Sands of LIFE project to remove scrub and revitalise Newborough’s dune grasslands - 3 September 2020

Crucial work to revitalise the Merthyr Mawr sand dunes - 5 October 2020

New report sheds some light on Welsh sand lizard population - 19 November 2020

Sands of LIFE work set to boost Tywyn Aberffraw sand dunes - 8 December 2020

Vital Sands LIFE work to support Kenfig's dunes - 2 February 2021

Crucial winter sand dune work completed at Pembrey Burrows - 23 February 2021

Sands of LIFE work update from Newborough - 10 March 2021

New report shows conservation work will boost rare protected species across Wales - 16 March 2021

First World Sand Dune Day to be held 25 June 2021 - 24 March 2021

Sand dunes boosted at internationally important site on Anglesey - 30 March 2021

Upcoming World Sand Dune Day will highlight habitat’s importance - 21 June 2021

Sands of LIFE summer and autumn work update from Newborough - 2 August 2021

Watch our videos

Dynamic Dunes

How we manage sand dunes on National Nature Reserves

Watch the Sands of LIFE project’s work to rejuvenate one of the dune slacks at Newborough

Watch some of the Sands of LIFE project’s crucial work at Pembrey Burrows

Read our newsletters

Sign up to receive Sands of LIFE Newsletters

More project details

Read more detailed information about the project

See the Sands of LIFE Arc GiS Story Map

Partner projects

Dunes2Dunes

Carmarthen Bay Dunes

Dune LIFE Dynamic Dunescapes

UK Sand and Shingle Network

Contact us

For more information, or to contact a member of the team, email SoLIFE@cyfoethnaturiolcymru.gov.uk

Funding

The Sands of LIFE project (LIFE17 NAT/UK/000023) has received 75% funding from the LIFE Programme of the European Union, with the Welsh Government providing 25% match funding. The project, which started in September 2018, will run until December 2022.       

European Commission - LIFE  Natura 2000  Welsh Govt logo

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