Dune Restoration Project

The Findhorn Hinterland Trust, in its role as a local conservation organisation that promotes conscious land management and environmental education on the Findhorn peninsula, is in the early stages of looking at how it can further maintain and develop the biodiversity of plants and animals on the land it manages.

Species rich grassland Scottish Biodiversity List scaled

Maintaining and protecting biodiversity in our world is of international importance and concern and the strategy is to make sure that what happens on the ground in every locality of the earth helps with this mammoth task.  To that end FHT commissioned a 2020 Local Biodiversity Action Plan that highlighted what habitats and species are particularly rare and important to conserve on the land it manages and from that it was clear that the dune habitat is of prime importance.  How can we maintain and enhance this diversity? 

Common blue

To this end the trust is  looking to engage Sean Reed, a local ecologist in some dune restoration work in the near future and the following is an outline he has written of what is planned and the rationale behind this.  He introduced our land management group to the Dynamic Dunescapes publication which has helped inform our thinking and which some readers may find interesting and informative.  As Sean mentions, more information and planned consultation are to follow.

Jonathan Caddy

FHT Chair   

A very special place

Findhorn dunes are of high biodiversity interest, home to rare plants and animals which can easily be overlooked.  The dunes are recognised to be of national importance for lichens and are the most important site for a moth which is found at only one other place in Scotland.  Dune heath (heather) and dry grassland habitats are particularly valuable to rare insects.  

Dune heath

Under threat

Natural sand dune landscapes are now rarely seen in Europe.  They have been lost through the establishment of forestry plantations, housing and industrial developments, caravan parks and golf courses.  

Dune heath, sand

Over-stabilisation, through increasing vegetation cover, is a major threat to UK dunes.  At Findhorn, dynamic open sand dune habitats, dependent on a plentiful supply of mobile sand, are being lost to gorse and tree encroachment.  While this landscape may look wild and natural, it is actually the result of reduced wind speed, caused by the historic construction of houses and planting of woodland. This wind-sheltering effect has allowed gorse to spread, further restricting the natural flow of the wind.  Pine trees, from seeds blown from adjoining plantation woodland, add to the problem, so that without action much of the special wildlife interest of the area will soon disappear.

Dune heath, shingle. Scottish Biodiversity List

Our responsibility

The Findhorn Hinterland Trust manages thirty-five hectares of the Findhorn dunes, including ten hectares of woodland.  Most of the dune heath is now covered by gorse.  Rare sand and shingle habitats, the ‘jewels in the crown’ of Hinterland’s biodiversity, are dependent on regular hand clearance of scrub for their continued existence.  

Sand dune habitats, and many of the species that depend upon them for survival, are included on the Scottish Biodiversity List.  These are the highest priorities for conservation action, helping to deliver on international targets for cooperative biodiversity recovery.  We have a duty to respond to the biodiversity crisis on the land which we care for.  

Dark Green Fritillary, knapweed

Vision to action

Our vision is of a healthier mix of sand dune habitats, a re-invigorated ecosystem which is more self-sustaining.   We are planning to open-up carefully selected areas of gorse to the dynamic natural process of wind-blown sand, using best practice techniques in sand dune restoration.  This involves using machinery to create new areas of bare sand and to transform dense gorse stands into dune heath and species-rich grassland, which are of much greater biodiversity value than gorse scrub.  The Project is seeking to raise funding to pay for hire of machinery and project management, recognising the sensitivity of the area and the value which the local community and visitors place upon it.

Small heath. Scottish Biodiversity List

Without community and public understanding of the need for this work, it may appear to some to be destructive.  A programme of public consultation and information will be a key part of the Project.

Sean Reed

Professional Ecologist 

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Findhorn Hinterland Trust, Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO) SC045806
228 Pineridge, Findhorn, Forres, Moray IV36 3TB