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Sand Dunes - They Protect Us, Let's Protect Them

Sand Dunes - They Protect Us, Let's Protect Them

Damage to our sand dunes is evident all around the coast and the  Protect Our Dunes public awareness campaign aims to highlight the importance and fragility of these natural coastal protections and important habitats. 

Sand dunes provide natural coastal protection against storm surge and high waves and help prevent or reduce coastal flooding and structural damage to properties behind them. The diversity of dune shapes is also ideal for unique plants and animals to thrive creating habitats that are internationally valued as Special Areas of Conservation. Flowering plants, lizards, toads and ground-nesting birds all call the dunes their home. The preservation and strengthening of natural coastal defences, such as sand dune systems, plays an important role in increasing our coastal resilience to the impacts of climate change.

“In the past some may have thought sand dunes were just nice places for the plants and animals. There is now a growing realisation they can be a big part of our fight against climate change and storm impacts. Coastal dunes are an excellent, flexible coastal protection. By looking after them, we have a win-win situation” - Dr. Kevin Lynch, Coastal Geomorphologist at NUI

The real strength of the dunes comes from the plants that trap and bind the sands together, with marram grass being quite common in Ireland. In dunes the plant roots have to go very deep and wide to get water and this extensive root network is excellent at binding the sand together – like steel in reinforced concrete.

Despite dunes being tough and protecting us from coastal storm events, they are also very fragile. Unlike the grass in gardens and sport fields, the grasses that bind dunes in place are a not suited to being walked on. These dune grasses and plants die back very quickly with human trampling, leaving the sand free to be blown away. In these cases what looks like coastal erosion is actually erosion driven by human activity.

Our 2023 campaign #ProtectOurDunes to limit the damage to sand dunes from recreational activities along the coastline by raising awareness of the value and need to respect these ecosystems.

Further Information

For further information on the campaign please email