Ecology and Conservation

Much of the FHT managed area, of thirty-five hectares, comprises old sand dunes covered by gorse.  Within the dense gorse are sand and shingle areas with excellent examples of rare lichen-rich sand/shingle and dune heath habitats, covering around four hectares in total.  Sand and shingle habitats are either unvegetated, or with a crust of lichens and dune heath is characterised by a sparse cover of heather.  Sand, shingle and heath grade-into each other, forming an intimate habitat mosaic in the open areas between gorse stands.  These open sand and shingle habitats are the of the highest biodiversity priority and are included on the governments’ Scottish Biodiversity List (SBL).

Vegetated shingle and dune heath. S.Reed

The dunes are of national importance for biodiversity, for lichens, insects and fungi.

Endangered Felt Lichen. H.Paul

Findhorn dunes are the only known site in the UK for the lichenous fungus Polycoccum trypethelioides, which grows on the Felt Lichen – itself a Red Data Book, Endangered, and Nationally Rare species. The dunes are the most important site in the UK for the rare sand dune moth Scythris empetrella, found at only one other place in Scotland.  The large and attractive Portland Moth, and the Lyme Grass Moth, both rare coastal specialists, also occur here.  The pied-winged robber fly (SBL) and cranefly Tipula nocicornis are found on the dunes, both restricted to a handful of sites in Scotland.  The curious Sandy Earthtongue fungus, known from only one other site in Scotland, is widespread on the Findhorn Dunes.

Scythris empetrella on a heather stem. J. Hammond

Sandy earthtongue fungus. A. Watson Featherstone

Dune grassland, around the wind turbines and along firebreaks and paths, is particularly valuable for insects, including the Small Heath (SBL) and Common Blue butterflies.  Natural grassland is now a rare habitat – 97% of species-rich grasslands have been lost in the last 80 years or so.  We have created sheltered glades in the gorse by the turbines, and maintain these for butterflies and other insects.  Pony grazing helps to maintain open grassy areas with a diverse vegetation structure.

Dune grassland. S.Reed

Small heather butterfly. S.Reed

Wilkies Wood is a ten-hectare fifty-year old pine plantation.  It is a highly-valued community resource and also provides a sustainable supply of local firewood.  The woodland supports a small population of red squirrels (SBL), the nationally scarce creeping lady’s tresses (a type of orchid), and a rare fungus which grows on its leaves.  The woodland has been completely transformed since the Trust took over its management, from a neglected stunted plantation, to a diverse, vibrant, natural woodland habitat.  This has been achieved through careful thinning and planting, increasing the availability of standing and fallen deadwood, and creating two small ponds.

Wilkies Wood. S.Reed

More information on the ecology of the Hinterland is contained in the following links:

Conservation Priorities

Unfortunately, open dune habitats, which are dependent on wind-blown mobile sand, are being lost rapidly to gorse and tree encroachment.  While the landscape of gorse and young trees may look wild and natural, scrub growth is actually the result of reduced wind speed, caused by the historic construction of houses and planting of woodland. The resultant wind-sheltering effect has allowed gorse to spread, further restricting the natural flow of the wind.  Pine trees, sprouting from seeds blown from adjoining plantation woodland have added to the problem.

Gorse encroaching on dune heath. S.Reed

Over recent years we have been carefully clearing gorse and small trees from around priority lichen-rich areas of sand/shingle and dune heath.   Much of this work has been done by volunteer work parties, using hand tools.

Young pine trees encroaching on dune heath

Our vision is of a healthier mix of sand dune habitats overall, a re-invigorated ecosystem which is more self-sustaining.  We are planning to open-up carefully selected areas of gorse to the natural process of wind-blown sand, using best practice techniques in sand dune restoration.  This work is not possible using hand tools.  Contractors with specialist equipment will be needed 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.

Further information on our Dune Restoration Project can be found in the following links:

FHT volunteer work party. S.Reed

Habitat restoration through mechanical mulching. S.Reed

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