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Experts gather for sand dune conference

25 May 2024 2 minute read
Image: NRW

Conservation experts have been learning and sharing knowledge about one of Wales’ most important habitats this month.

More than 100 delegates gathered in person and online to hear from local and international experts about sand dune conservation and management at the three-day Sands of LIFE conference at the Celtic Royal Hotel in Caernarfon.

Sands of LIFE, an EU-funded project led by Natural Resources Wales (NRW), has been working to restore sand dunes across Wales, recreating natural movement in dunes and revitalising habitats home to some of the country’s rarest wildlife.

Ongoing project

Work has been taking place over the past five years at sites including Tywyn Aberffraw, Newborough, Morfa Harlech, Pembrey and Whiteford Burrows, Kenfig and Merthyr Mawr.

Kathryn Hewitt, Sands of LIFE Project Manager for NRW, said: “We are delighted to have been able to host this conference, hear from experts and share best practice from across the UK and Europe.

“Sand dunes are unique landscapes, which straddle land and sea, and are some of the best locations for wildlife in Wales. They are hotspots of biodiversity, and are great places to relax, unwind and reconnect with nature.

“They are listed as the habitat most at risk in Europe and support more than 70 nationally rare or Red Data Book species, so learning how to best protect and restore them is vital to help tackle the climate and nature emergencies.”

Biodiversity loss

As well as presentations and discussions, delegates made a site visit to Newborough Warren and Forest on Anglesey where a number of projects have taken place.

Approximately 30 per cent of the original sand dune area in Wales has been lost to development and erosion since 1900, and most of the remainder has become over-stabilized by vegetation in the past 50 years, resulting in significant biodiversity loss.

Just 8,000ha of sand dunes remain – 0.3 per cent of the land mass of Wales. Dunes cannot be re-created, and their form and habitats are highly specialised. However, active conservation action can make a real positive difference for threatened dune wildlife.

Sands of LIFE’s work at Morfa Harlech was recently featured on an episode of Great Coastal Railway Journeys with Michael Portillo. You can watch the episode on BBC iPlayer

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