A new method of restoring sand dunes to their pristine and natural condition is being trialed by Forestry and Land Scotland at Morrich More, a site near Tain in East Sutherland.
The project aims to remove trees – planted decades ago in a misguided attempt to help prevent dune erosion – and create the conditions that will allow dune vegetation to once more take hold and allow natural processes to conserve the coastline.
Suzanne Dolby, FLS Environment forester (North Region), said: “Sand dunes are vulnerable to coastal erosion, especially in the face of rising sea levels and more frequent severe weather events. Decades ago, the thinking was that planting trees on dunes would help to prevent them from being eroded and that this would help protect Scotland’s coastline. However, tidal and wave action continued to drive erosion under the tree roots and actually encouraged erosion. These days, the awareness and understanding of the cycles that sand dunes go through – and their value as habitats in their own right - is much more prevalent so we are looking at how best we can restore sand dunes to their natural state.”
Sand dunes help to protect the coastline and are likely to be an increasingly important defence against sea level rise as a result of the Climate Emergency.