Just a couple of weeks ago I was told by my friends ‘let’s go an attend an evening event at the beach all about the local dunes - there is also a moonlight walk planned’.
Okay, who wouldn’t fall for that? Let’s forget an evening of Netflix and chill and out we embark on an exploration about the local dunes...
The event was organised by a friend who happens to work on a big European project, called Life Redune, part of the ‘life’ programme, that aims to 'restore and maintain the ecological integrity of a set of dunes listed under the annex I of the european habitats directive'. Now, I would like to mention that like maybe some of you, I also did not know that much about dunes before this event. Yes I could guess that they were important for the ecosystem, and I know that some were protected, as they can host of some rare vegetation (and in turn some peculiar insects), but I didn’t know just how diverse they could be!
Well, first of all dunes are situated at the border between the sea and the land, thus are what we consider transition habitats. These are diverse habitats per se, as some species need to be more adapted to live closer to sea conditions while other closer to the land, creating a special mix and having species in the middle which are special to the ecosystem as they adapt to the mid-level conditions.
Turns out, however, that they are not all the same. Dunes can be quite different depending on where you are. Since we were in the Venice area, we had a lesson about the dunes local to us. The dunes in the Veneto area are fairly particular, and if I have understood correctly, this has something to do with the special position so close to the mountains (and yet at the sea), and that seeds from mountain plants travel down the many rivers and bring down some plants that establish on the back of the dunes system. On top of that, the dunes here are hosts to some endemic species , some of which pretty rare, like Stipa veneta (just a few thousands individuals left...).
Unfortunately, like many other special places, dunes have also experienced extensive damage. Interestingly, I learnt that most of the dunes were lost during the Second World War , as lookouts were needed (so they were flattened) and after that, there was no time to think about rebuilding them and instead the money boom revolution took place and beach resorts were built. Now, it’s time for researchers to restore some of these habitats.. and that’s when this ‘life redune’ came about.
There are also other things that I have learnt on the night, like recognising some invasive dune species and most importantly , that dunes are quite fragile systems. And that we should take every step possible to protect them (ie not putting a big tent in between evening and morning surf sessions....).
So what can you do?
If you have any questions post them in the comments below and I will try to get an answer for you ;)