Landscape-scale environmental drivers of coastal dune mobility

Lead Research Organisation: University of Huddersfield
Department Name: Biological Sciences

Abstract

Coastal dune habitats provide a diversity of habitats for a number of rare and threatened plants and animals. The movement of windblown sand within these dune systems is critical to maintaining a high level of biodiversity as it creates a mosaic of habitats for plants and animals to live.

The conservation status of mobile coastal sand dunes in the UK has declined dramatically in the last 50 years, making it a habitat in urgent need of attention. As a result, managers of coastal sand dunes, including Natural England and National Resource Wales, have implemented a number of habitat restoration interventions including the removal of invasive species and mature vegetation. The most efficient strategy to improve the short-term mobility of sand has been the large-scale removal of vegetation and excavation of trough and bowl-shaped depressions, in locations where mobile dunes previously existed. This technique, however, is also the most expensive. Additionally, evidence from similar dune remobilisation efforts in the Netherlands and Canada have reported that the mobility of these dunes is not sustained after management interventions, resulting in revegetation. This lack of sustained mobility has been attributed to a lack of understanding of the natural processes that drive dune mobility.

Using a combination of remote sensing and in-situ measurements, this program of study will statistically identify the landscape-scale factors that correlate with mobile dunes in the UK landscape. This information will then be discussed and disseminated with key stakeholders in the coastal dune environment. The knowledge gained from the research will be used to guide decision making with regards to the technique, location, and scale of dune rehabilitation interventions throughout the UK and around the world.

Planned Impact

This project will enable an improved understanding of the landscape-scale drivers of coastal dune mobility, which will directly benefit a range of non-academic end users, including:

1) Government departments and advisers including Natural England, Natural Resource Wales, Scottish National Heritage and Department of the Environment (Northern Ireland).

2) Councils with responsibilities for dune management including Sefton Council, Fylde Borough Council and East Sussex County Council.

3) Non-government agencies who are key landowners and stakeholders of coastal sand dunes, for example, The National Trust at Sandscale Haws NNR (Cumbria) and Murlough Bay (Northern Ireland), The Wildlife Trusts (e.g. at Red Rocks, Wirral and Holme Dunes, Norfolk) and the Golf Environmental Association (GEO).

4) Landowners at the coast with an interest in increasing local biodiversity, for example Ministry of Defence sites (e.g. Magilligan Dunes, Northern Ireland), Territorial Army Voluntary Reserves sites (e.g. Altcar on the Sefton Coast, north west England), private golf courses and airports.

5) Environmental consultants with expertise in coastal dune rehabilitation including Kenneth Pye Associates, Royal Haskoning DHV (Netherlands), Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI) and Exo Environmental. Consultants are regularly invited to advise on dune restoration projects with the stakeholders listed in points 1-4.

These beneficiaries will gain a more complete understanding of mobile dune mapping and its statistical accuracy, an increased knowledge of the geomorphic processes that are presently creating mobile dunes, increased knowledge of the environmental factors that correlate with mobile dunes (e.g. steep slopes, fast near-surface wind speed) and a tool, specifically developed in consideration of land managers, to spatially model where dune restoration interventions to create mobile dunes are most likely to succeed. This research provides the statistical methods for land managers to make informed decisions on the site selection for restoration activities, which will result in mobile dune habitats that persist longer and require less future interventions.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Land cover change in sand dunes is typically measured using aerial photography and/or satellite imagery. Our work quantifies the accuracy of remotely sensed data in coastal dune environments with ground-truthed measurements. The results demonstrate that measurements of bare sand and vegetation cover are highly variable and caution should be used when interpreting trends and changes in land cover classification.

Research funded through the award also indicates that bare sand in UK coastal sand dunes is most strongly correlated with steep slopes.
Exploitation Route We recommend that analysis of bare sand and vegetation cover in dunes should be based on multiple replicates using supervised classification, employing the highest resolution imagery available and that all results presented should also include the range measured by multiple replicates.

We recommend that if land managers wish to create areas of bare sand in coastal dunes, then removal on vegetation on steep slopes may be the most sustainable approach.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment

 
Description Coastal Resilience and Adaption Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact The purpose of this workshop was to discuss the nature of resilience on our coasts with academics (international), land managers (regional) and politicians (local). Our presentation focused on the coastal sand dune environments lack of resilience when they are planted with exotic Pine trees. i.e. Concerted management is required to restore a 'natural' dunescape. The key aims, objectives and methods of the funded research project were discussed with academics not related to the project and with representatives from The National Trust, Natural England and Sefton Council.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description National Dune Management Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact 17 practitioners from Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, Nature Scot, Cornwall Wildlife Trust, Plantlife, local council and an environmental consultancy attended a workshop designed to discuss the impacts of the funded research on sand dune management. Attendees found the workshop thought provoking and interesting. How the key findings of the research could be applied to sand dune management was discussed in detail.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Presentation at 8th Irish Geomorphology Scientific Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Presentation on the research project entitled 'Landscape drivers of coastal dune mobility' to attendees of the 8th Irish Geomorphology Scientific Workshop. The presentation sparked discussion about the research in an Irish context
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Public Lecture at the University of Huddersfield 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The intended purpose of the activity was to inform members of the general public about coastal dune mobility and the aims, objectives and methods of the funded research. The public lecture stimulated a range of questions and discussion. Following the lecture, several members of the audience shared their own perspectives regarding coastal dune management. Several audience members also remarked how the talk had changed their perspective of coastal dunes as a landscape.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.hud.ac.uk/events/#!?searchterm=&startdate=20200122&type=
 
Description School Visit (Bacup and Rawtenstall Grammar School) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact The purpose of the activity was to inform 6th form students about coastal dunes and the recent changes in dune geomorphology. The talk highlighted our research which is trying to understand the environmental drivers of change in this landscape. Coastal geomorphology was not a topic being studied by the students at Bacup and Rawtenstall Grammar School. Three students attended the event.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description School Visit (Greenhead College) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact The purpose of the activity was to inform 6th form students about coastal dunes and the recent changes in our coastal dune environment. The talk highlighted how the awarded research is focused on understanding the environmental drivers of change in this landscape. Coastal geomorphology was not a topic being studied by the students at Greenhead College. Approximately 30 students attended the event.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description School Visit (Greenhead College) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact The purpose of the activity was to inform 6th form students about coastal dunes and the recent changes in our coastal dune environment. The talk highlighted how the awarded research is focused on understanding the environmental drivers of change in this landscape. Coastal geomorphology was not a topic being studied by the students at Greenhead College. Approximately 25 students attended the event.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description TEDx Aberystwyth Talk: How sand dunes change and why it matters 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact TEDx talk broadcast live to a ticketed audience of approximately 300 people in November 2021.
Talk uploaded to YouTube on 4th March 2021 and had over 1,200 views by 8th March (4 days). Sparked comments and questions on Twitter, Facebook and on YouTube.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FiKpSVVOS7k
 
Description Visit to learned society (Manchester Geographic Society) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The intended purpose of the activity was to inform members of the general public about coastal dune mobility and to disseminate the aims, objectives and methods of the funded research. The public lecture stimulated a range of questions and discussion. Following the lecture, several members of the audience remarked how the talk had changed their perspective of coastal dunes as a landscape.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020