Sands of LIFE
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
- Tywyn Aberffraw
- Morfa Dinlle
- Laugharne - Pendine Burrows
- Pembrey Burrows
- Whiteford Burrows
- 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 project’s 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
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
Sands of LIFE summer and autumn work update from Newborough - 2 August 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
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
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
Read our newsletters
- Summer/Autumn 2023
- Autumn 2022
- Summer 2022
- Autumn 2021
- Summer 2021
- Spring 2021
- Winter 2021
- Autumn 2020
- Summer 2020
- Spring 2020
- Winter 2020
- Autumn 2019
Sands of LIFE in the news
'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
More project details
For more information, or to contact a member of the team, email SoLIFE@cyfoethnaturiolcymru.gov.uk
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.