Invasive species are one of the top five drivers of biodiversity loss worldwide and a problem which many conservation projects have to deal with. In sand dunes, invasive species can change how the dunes look and function, often out-competing slower-growing dune species. At The Towans, the Dynamic Dunescapes project is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and is working closely with the Friends of the Towans volunteer group, to reduce the number of invasive plants there.
Some invasive plants may be garden ‘escapes’, where seeds have blown in from gardens or been ‘deposited’ by birds; Buddleia, pampas grass and Cotoneaster are typical examples of this. These popular ornamental plants look great in gardens, but in sand dunes they smother native species and can be difficult to remove. Sometimes though it’s native species that are problematic. At Mexico Towans, clematis and bramble can become rampant if unchecked, spreading thick and fast over dune vegetation.
As part of the management plan for Mexico Towans, work to remove invasive plants is taking place. This work focuses largely on the south western boundary, where the site borders Riviere Sands holiday park and Phillack village. Though some of this work may appear alarming at first, as it can involve large machinery, targeted mechanical removal is fast and has the advantage of reducing chemical use. Follow up work by groups of volunteers can then rake and burn the cuttings, creating space for sand dune species to thrive.
While this work is much needed, in the long-run prevention is better than cure. Dune soils are typically nutrient poor – so soil enrichment can create problems. This can occur from sources such as dog fouling and discarded garden waste. Garden waste can even be a double-whammy to the dunes, as many invasive species first enter dune habitats when garden waste is discarded there.
The good news is that we can all help to prevent invasive species from getting established…
- If you enjoy walking you dog on the dunes (and who wouldn’t!) always pick up after your pooch. This avoids extra ‘fertiliser’ being added to the dune system.
- Don’t discard garden waste on the dunes. This avoids adding nutrients to the dunes, as well as preventing the seeds of invasive species from being moved there.
You can also help the management of these amazing sand dunes by becoming a volunteer. If interested, please contact People Engagement Officer firstname.lastname@example.org or Towans Ranger Martin Rule on 07854 123877.
Dynamic Dunescapes is a partnership project rejuvenating sand dunes across England and Wales, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the EU LIFE programme. Partners are Natural England, Plantlife, Natural Resources Wales, National Trust and The Wildlife Trust.