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Is there any cause for concern about the reappearance of wandering dunes?

1In September this year, a story was published on the wandering dunes, how they arose and how this natural disaster was contained in Latvia. The article is available here: https://www.tvnet.lv/6777657/smilsu-vara-stasts-par-latvijas-piejuras-kapu-apmezosanu.

As there are public concerns that the restoration of gray dune habitats through the LIFE CoHaBit project could lead to the re-emergence of wandering dunes, we hereby explain the current situation.

For centuries, woodland dunes were felled to obtain timber, which, aided by one-way winds, led to the emergence of wandering dunes.

To stop the spread of wandering dunes, they were strengthened starting from the 19th century. The dune strip closer to the sea shore (front dunes and gray dunes) was fortified by planting willows and other shrubs, while the dune strip below (dunes) was planted with pines.

As a result of dune afforestation that began two centuries ago, wandering dunes have been completely fortified. There is a solid root system of trees and shrubs, with lichens, mosses and herbaceous plants forming stable dunes. However, over time, the gray dune area has also been overgrown with pine trees, thus damaging this unique habitat. Too dense pine trees shade the undergrowth and create a very large layer of litter, which means that light and heat loving species have nowhere to grow and develop, as decomposing needle litter creates an acidic environment that is unsuitable for gray dune species. As a result, biodiversity is declining rapidly and gray dune habitats are disappearing.

In order to preserve and restore the gray dune habitat, it is necessary to reduce the area covered with pine trees. Therefore, within the framework of the LIFE CoHaBit project, pine trees are felled in number of polygons in the gray dune area at the Nature Park “Seaside”. Cutting out some of the existing pines in the form of polygons cannot be considered as a threat of re-emergence of wandering dunes. There are several factors behind this:

  • Restoration of gray dune habitat by cutting pines takes place in the form of polygons on a relatively small (13.4 ha) area. Proportionally, the total area of the Nature Park “Seaside” is 4,141 ha, of which 2,351.7 ha in Carnikava district.
  • When the pines are felled, the roots are left, so the root system continues to strengthen the dune.
  • Surface layer, which is predominantly covered in needle litter, moss, lichen and grass, is mostly preserved without the formation of very large open sand areas.
  • In-between polygons, there are large areas where no work is done.

The restoration of gray dunes will significantly increase the area of rare gray dunes in the Nature Park “Seaside”, with favorable lighting and humidity conditions for endangered plant and animal species. Gray dune habitats also play an important role in preserving high-quality natural and cultural landscapes, so purposeful care is important both for preserving biodiversity and providing a recreational environment.

More about project activities:




Projekts LIFE CoHaBit (Nr. LIFE15 NAT/LV/000900) „Piekrastes biotopu aizsardzība dabas parkā “Piejūra”” tiek ieviests ar Eiropas Komisijas LIFE programmas un Valsts reģionālās attīstības aģentūras Latvijas vides aizsardzības fonda administrācijas finansiālu atbalstu.

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Administration of Latvian Environmental Protection Fund 200


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