A paper on dune slack restoration in North Wales

… that may be of interest to some people here.

Two decades of dune slack restoration in North Wales: diversity, community and habitat specialists - Johansen - Nordic Journal of Botany - Wiley Online Library

‘Restoring’ dunes (even the slacks) always seems a bit odd since they can only exist with fairly severe disturbance otherwise they simply turn into another habitat. It is the manmade constraints that are the issue with this crowded island/planet and not being able to let natural processes produce another set of similar habitats of this successional stage elsewhere.

Having spent some hours over several years in Dune Slacks, and noting changes there, particularly the drying out with loss of Drosera, and incursion of Alnus, I found this paper interesting, in particular:
“The speed of species establishment and diversity of species in the early years suggests regeneration occurred mainly from the existing seedbank.”
“The depth of soil removal is likely to be an important and site-specific factor since it will be necessary to dig deep enough to uncover the seedbank of the former successional community (Jones et al. 2021), but not too deep so as to remove it”

I think Mike is making an interesting point. Presumably without manmade interference natural geological processes are eroding sand from one place and depositing it elsewhere. Where new sand is accumulating pioneer species move in causing stabilisation and succession and on. Artificial destabilisation is surely may also present unexpected consequences.
The striping of turf for housing etc does seem to have been a contributing factor to the inundation of Culbin, all being it quite a while ago. See https://www.ssns.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/10_Ross_Moray_1993_pp_187-204.pdf

Newborough Warren, also North Wales but quite distant from the dunes in the paper, has become very stabilised causing the decline of the flora and fauna associated with bare sand, so there has been a scheme there to remobilise the dunes using diggers. In the early 1950s Newborough Warren looked like the Sahara, everything nibbled by the thousands of rabbits. Myxomatosis put paid to them so it has had about 60 years to develop a thick grass turf.

In a textbook dune system you would have new dunes forming along the shore and more and more aged ridges as you go inland until you get to dune woodland. I don’t think there is anywhere in Britain you get that full range, though the squirrel fanatics claim the conifer plantation at Newborough is dune woodland.

One lecture I went to reckoned we lack the new dunes because the offshore source of sand is nearly exhausted, having been dumped there after the retreat of the glaciers and been blowing back inland ever since. There is also evidence that it isn’t a gradual process. A major storm can inundate the Warren with new sand at one go, though this hasn’t happened for several centuries. I’m not clear whether these catastrophic events involve wind-blown sand or water carrying sand over the dunes.

Recent analysis of the dune pattern has concluded the dune ridges are not all that natural at Newborough after all. The outer ones have been built up by man at some time, probably as flood defences.

Dutch dune ecologists assure us Newborough won’t get scrubbed over because climate change will ensure there are sufficient droughts to prevent woody vegetation becoming dominant.

I think there are still a few naturalish dunes for example 58.5887654,-4.7699963 Balnakeil always seemed to me rather mobile although even that is probably managed given the man associated history of the area.
Also one of our floodplain grassland botanists has monitored other dunes in many parts of UK particularly looking at changes in the slack systems. Also also the Cepaea snail people also have done a lot of long term monitoring of other dune systems looking at changes in snail morphs some of this went into (Silvertown J, Cook LM, Cameron RAD, Dodd M, McConway K, Worthington J et al. (2011). Citizen science reveals unexpected continental-scale evolutionary change in a model organism. PLoS ONE 6: e18927).

The Culbin history I found fascinating. In particular the author pointing out various possible & errors in transcription, use of anecdote, lack of evidence etc. Plus ça change. These happen today ( the internet enabling Cut n Paste without verification) .
That Murray is a derivative of ‘de Moravia’ will be a surpise to some I know.
Thank you.

Glad you found it interesting.

I think the internet has increased all the various possible ways of spreading misinformation or should that be disinformation by orders of magnitude.

The Balnakeil dunes are certainly a fascinating area to walk in, not that I have been there for several years. I can’t imagine that there has not been management of some kind.

I’ve seen the paper before but enjoyed reading it again. Thanks. (My mother’s family lived in Kintessack and I spent many happy holidays there.)