Marram grass

What we're doing

Sands of LIFE is a major conservation project to rejuvenate sand dunes across Wales which runs to June 2024. It is recreating natural movement in the dunes and revitalising habitats which are home to some of our rarest wildlife.

This major project, led by Natural Resources Wales, is restoring over 2400 hectares of sand dunes, across four Special Areas of Conservation, on 10 separate Welsh sites:

Anglesey & Menai Strait


Carmarthen Bay

  • Laugharne - Pendine Burrows
  • Pembrey Burrows
  • Whiteford Burrows


  • Kenfig
  • Merthyr Mawr

Why healthy sand dunes are important

Sand dunes are wild, iconic landscapes. They are biodiversity hotspots where carpets of orchids still survive alongside song birds, butterflies, and a wide array of endangered insects.

Dunes are prized by locals and visitors for their unique character, a backdrop to a day on the beach and every child’s perfect natural playground.

Healthy dunes have plenty of bare sand and are constantly in motion. Sand hills are built, blow out and are built again. Unique and specialised communities of plants and invertebrates are constantly re-colonising the open space.

As well as being reservoirs of biodiversity, our sand dunes help safeguard our wider environment by providing a natural solution to flood defence and coastal erosion as well as maintaining water flows and supporting vital pollinators, such as bees and butterflies.

Changes to sand dunes

Over the last 80 years, nearly 90% of the open sand has disappeared being replaced by dense grass and scrub. The dunes have become stable and fixed, and rare wildlife has disappeared.

This change has been caused by factors such as the introduction of non-native plants, lack of traditional grazing, a declining rabbit population and air pollution.

Find out more about our work with sand dunes.

Action for sand dunes

The Sands of LIFE project is carrying out an ambitious programme of practical action on these internationally important sites, by:

  • re-profiling dunes to allow sand to move again
  • lowering the surface of dried-out slacks (hollows) to re-create pools and wet habitat
  • promoting sustainable grazing by livestock and rabbits
  • removing scrub and invasive non-native species

There is also an extensive programme of before-and-after monitoring to track the projects progress. Sands of LIFE engages with local communities and raise understanding of the value and importance of sand dunes to people and the environment. The project encourages sharing of knowledge on sand dune management with others in Wales and further afield.

Wales’ well-being goals

As well as being reservoirs of biodiversity, sand dunes help safeguard our wider environment as they act as natural sea defences, maintain the quality and flow of freshwater and boost populations of vital pollinators.

Beaches and dunes are important to the Welsh tourist economy and are great locations for outdoor exercise and recreation. Sands of LIFE is contributing towards Wales well-being goals by:

  • supporting traditional farming practice
  • creating economic opportunities for business
  • training and developing a new generation of environmental managers
  • enabling more people to use and enjoy the dunes, which in turn promotes health and well-being.

Learn more about sand dunes

Read our news and blogs

Sands of LIFE work update from our dunes down south - 28 July 2023

Celebrate unique landscapes on World Sand Dune Day - 20 June 2023

Vital Sands of LIFE works continue at Tywyn Aberffraw - 17 August 2022

Sands of LIFE summer and autumn work update for sand dunes around South Wales - 3 August 2022

Boosting the sand dunes of Ardudwy this summer and autumn - 1 August 2022

Fen Orchid rediscovered at Laugharne-Pendine Burrows - 28 July 2022

Work to take place at Newborough this summer - 26 July 2022

Fencing work to safeguard and enhance the important habitats at Kenfig - 13 April 2022

The reasons behind the Sands of LIFE project’s work to remove conifers from the dunes at Whiteford Burrows - 21 September 2021

How the Sands of LIFE project will be boosting sand dunes around South Wales - 16 August 2021

Sands of LIFE summer and autumn work update from Newborough - 2 August 2021

Upcoming World Sand Dune Day will highlight habitat’s importance - 21 June 2021

Sand dunes boosted at internationally important site on Anglesey - 30 March 2021

First World Sand Dune Day to be held 25 June 2021 - 24 March 2021

New report shows conservation work will boost rare protected species across Wales - 16 March 2021

Sands of LIFE work update from Newborough - 10 March 2021

Crucial winter sand dune work completed at Pembrey Burrows - 23 February 2021

Vital Sands LIFE work to support Kenfig's dunes - 2 February 2021

Sands of LIFE work set to boost Tywyn Aberffraw sand dunes - 8 December 2020

New report sheds some light on Welsh sand lizard population - 19 November 2020

Crucial work to revitalise the Merthyr Mawr sand dunes - 5 October 2020

Sands of LIFE project to remove scrub and revitalise Newborough’s dune grasslands - 3 September 2020

What impact has lockdown had on the Sands of LIFE project? - 28 May 2020

Rejuvenating our sand dunes - 7 October 2019

New LIFE to Welsh sand dunes - 7 August 2018

Summer in the sand dunes - 30 May 2018


Watch our videos

Dynamic Dunes

How we manage sand dunes on National Nature Reserves

Watch the Sands of LIFE project’s work to rejuvenate one of the dune slacks at Newborough

Watch some of the Sands of LIFE project’s crucial work at Pembrey Burrows

Read our newsletters

Sign up to receive Sands of LIFE Newsletters

Sands of LIFE in the news

'Important fencing work to begin at Pembrey Burrows', Llanelli Herald - 17 June 2020 

'Preserving Life', Life in North Wales Magazine, Page 29-32 October 2020 edition - 29 September 2020

'Sands of LIFE - Revitalising Wales Dunes', South Wales Life - 1 March 2021 

'Robo-mowers to help boost sand dune habitat', Cambrian News - 15 March 2021

'Diwrnod o ddathlu gwerth a phwysigrwydd twyni tywod', BBC Cymru Fyw (Welsh language article)  - 25 June 2021

More project details

Read more detailed information about the project

See the Sands of LIFE Arc GiS Story Map

Technical reports

Pre-intervention sand lizard surveys at Tywyn Aberffraw and Newborough Warren for Sands of LIFE

Sands of LIFE: Bryophyte survey

Sands of LIFE: Great crested newt survey report

Sands of LIFE: Fixed-point vegetation monitoring - pre-intervention report

Sands of LIFE: Invertebrate Report - Pre Intervention invertebrate monitoring

Sands of LIFE: National Vegetation Classification (NVC) Survey

Sands of LIFE: Hydrology Report

Partner projects


Carmarthen Bay Dunes

Dune LIFE Dynamic Dunescapes

UK Sand and Shingle Network

Contact us

For more information, or to contact a member of the team, email


The Sands of LIFE project has received funding from the LIFE programme of the European Union and the Welsh Government.  The project, which started in September 2018, will run until June 2024.

European Commission - LIFE  Natura 2000  Welsh Govt logo

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