Sands of LIFE
What we're doing
Sands of LIFE is a major conservation project to revitalise sand dunes across Wales which runs until December 2022. It will recreate natural movement in the dunes and rejuvenate habitats which are home to some of our rarest wildlife.
The £4 million project, led by Natural Resources Wales (NRW), will restore over 2400 hectares of sand dunes, across four Special Areas of Conservation, on 10 separate Welsh sites:
Anglesey & Menai Strait
- Tywyn Aberffraw
- Newborough Warren
- Morfa Dinlle
- Laugharne - Pendine Burrows
- Pembrey Coast
- 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.
Action we're taking
The project will rejuvenate these internationally important sand dune sites through an ambitious range of actions:
- re-profiling dunes and creating bare sand to allow sand to move again
- lowering the surface of dried-out dune slacks (hollows) to re-create pools and wet habitat
- promote sustainable grazing practices by livestock and rabbits
- remove scrub and invasive non-native species which are smothering and stabilising the dunes
There will also be an extensive programme of before-and-after monitoring to track the project’s progress.
Our work with communities
Through Sands of LIFE, we'll engage with local communities to raise awareness of the value and importance of sand dunes to people and the environment. The project will also enable knowledge-sharing on sand dune management with others both in Wales and further afield.
The project will also contribute towards Wales’ Wellbeing 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 encourages exercise, health and wellbeing
Learn more about sand dunes
Read our news and blogs
Fen Orchid rediscovered at Laugharne-Pendine Burrows - 28 July 2022
Work to take place at Newborough this summer - 26 July 2022
Rejuvenating our sand dunes - 7 October 2019
New LIFE to Welsh sand dunes - 7 August 2018
Summer in the sand dunes - 30 May 2018
Crucial work to revitalise the Merthyr Mawr sand dunes - 5 October 2020
New report sheds some light on Welsh sand lizard population - 19 November 2020
Sands of LIFE work set to boost Tywyn Aberffraw sand dunes - 8 December 2020
Vital Sands LIFE work to support Kenfig's dunes - 2 February 2021
Crucial winter sand dune work completed at Pembrey Burrows - 23 February 2021
Sands of LIFE work update from Newborough - 10 March 2021
First World Sand Dune Day to be held 25 June 2021 - 24 March 2021
Sand dunes boosted at internationally important site on Anglesey - 30 March 2021
Sands of LIFE summer and autumn work update from Newborough - 2 August 2021
Boosting the sand dunes of Ardudwy this summer and autumn - 1 August 2022
Watch our videos
Read our newsletters
- Autumn 2019
- Winter 2020
- Spring 2020
- Summer 2020
- Autumn 2020
- Winter 2021
- Spring 2021
- Summer 2021
- Autumn 2021
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 (LIFE17 NAT/UK/000023) has received 75% funding from the LIFE Programme of the European Union, with the Welsh Government providing 25% match funding. The project, which started in September 2018, will run until December 2022.