Assessing Dunes

Sand dunes are fun to explore.  There are lots of ups and downs and little paths to follow and being just behind the beach, they are a good place to find shelter on a windy day.

However, sand dunes are a vulnerable environment that is easily disturbed.  Strong winds from the beach readily move the loose sand around, blowing it further inland and rearranging the dunes, covering whole plants in one place and exposing the roots in another.

As we go tramping around our feet kick the sand about.  The plant roots cling on to the sand as best they can, but it is easy to disturb everything just a little too much.

Let’s investigate:

  • Is there more evidence of people just behind the beach or further inland?
  • Does the impact decrease as you get further away from the car park?

To assess the impact on the dunes you need a chart:

This is a basic outline, but you can add more rows and more things to investigate.

You need a copy of the chart for each site that you are going to assess.  You’ll need to visit 3 or 4 sites, at different distances from the sea, or different distances from the car park. You could pace out the distance between them.

At each site look around you.  Then put one tick on each row of your chart.  So with the first row, if it is really noisy then put a tick under -2; if it is really quiet then tick +2.  If it is somewhere in between – well you have 3 options.  Do each row in the same way.

When you’ve finished work out the total score for each site.  The best site, with the least evidence of people, will have the most positive score overall.  The worst site will probably have a negative total score.

You can adapt your chart to other situations too, by changing the descriptions at the ends of the rows.  Just keep all the bad stuff on the left and all the good stuff on the right.

Which is the best beach?  The best footpath?  The best village?