Interventions that Provide Diverse Sandy Habitats

The listed treats to the biodiversity of sand dunes and heaths, and to outdoor pursuits, all lead to a situation where there is a prevailing lack of exposed sand, light, flowering plants and, in some places, lime. These deficiencies form the basis of the interventions that need to take place in the sand dunes and heaths. Sand Life will restore these environments! By removing trees and shrubs, creating patches of exposed sand and by burning and grazing unwanted vegetation we allow warmth and light to reach the sandy soil. The Sand Life interventions will be conducted in 23 different Natura 2000 areas in Skåne, Halland and on Öland. Flora and fauna, fungi and outdoor pursuits will benefit across an area totalling 3,349 hectares in the three counties.

Felling and Clearing

The pines (Pinus spp.), Japanese roses (Rosa rugosa) and other trees and shrubs that have spread across the sand dunes and heaths will be felled and cleared as part of Sand Life. Some of the trees that have been planted in the dune environments and which have no significance to the prevention of drifting sand will also be removed. The trees will be, primarily, pulled up along with their roots. In this way, there is no risk of the roots being broken down and fertilising the soil, and at the same time this provides small patches of exposed sand where the trees once stood. Experience has shown that the vegetation quickly regrows on these patches of sand; therefore, the uprooting will need to be combined with burning away the pine needles that lie on the ground. In advance of the burning, fire-breaks will be dug in order to keep the fire within a controlled area. In addition, these fire-breaks themselves constitute much-needed patches of exposed sand.

Japanese rose and other shrubs and trees that have spread with the help of underground shoots need to be dug up. Using excavator buckets that have a grill we can both dig up the roots and sift out the sand. Where Japanese roses have grown, old plant material has also collected. This can be dug down at the same time at the nutrient-poor soil is laid on the surface.

It is not just trees and shrubs that have spread out in our sand dunes and heaths. In many places, heather (Calluna vulgaris) has also got out of control. Heather is beautiful, but it also has a tendency to spread out, to the detriment of other plants and animals. Historically, people have limited the advance of heather and that is what we shall do again in order to regain the diversity of plant and animal species that were once found here. Heather will primarily be dealt with in the traditional method; burning. However, on Öland it will also be dug up in order to make way for the unique sandy grassland.

Creating Patches of Exposed Sand

There are very few patches of exposed sand in the sand dunes and heaths! As pine (Pinus spp.) and Japanese rose (Rosa rugosa) have spread and grass and plants have formed a carpet across the sand, the occurrence of exposed sand has decreased.

Sand Life will create more patches of exposed sand! Patches of exposed sand can be created in many different ways, for example, by ploughing and harrowing. Ploughing and harrowing the sandy soil are tried and tested methods that have been used for thousands of years. New patches of exposed sand will be created each year, while the old ones will slowly close up again. In this way, the area becomes more varied, with different successive stages, and the number of different environments for plants, animals and fungi is thus increased. If the ground has a thick covering of plants and a nutrient-rich upper layer of soil (has a darker colour), it may be necessary to dig or excavate. This restoration makes the area easier to manage in the future with ploughing, harrowing , burning and/or grazing.

Burning Off Old Vegetation

The sandy soils are both shaded and fertilised by the old vegetation that remains. A tried and tested method of removing old grass and dry brush, it to burn it off; this is known as ‘conservation burning’. Burning benefits the flowering plants at least as much as hay-making and grazing. More recent studies have also shown that numbers of both insects that live on flowers and meadow fungi increase more following burning than when grazing or hay-making. The best time to burn is in March and April when the grounds is at its driest. Over 60 conservation burns will take place as part of Sand Life, and most of the affected will be burned several times. The excess nutrients in the soil are also reduced by conservation burning as the nitrogen goes up into the air (see Nitrogen Deposition above). Up to 40 km of firebreaks will be dug before the burning begins, meaning there are no risks involved when conservation burning.

Lime-rich Sandy Soils

In order to retain the plants and fungi that benefit from a high pH and high levels of lime in the sandy soil, more lime will need to come up to the surface. Various interventions that are part of Sand Life will act to transport lime-rich sand to the surface of the ground. The lime-rich sand can be dug up or turned over by ploughing or harrowing the soil. If the lime is lying deeper than a normal plough can reach, there are special ploughs which reach down one metre. The method used simply depends on how deep down the lime is hiding.

In order to find out how deep the lime is, we will be analysing the chemistry of 250 soil samples as part of Sand Life. What we will be looking at is the concentration of lime and the pH, as well as the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorous.

More Flowering Plants

There is a serious lack of flowering plants in the landscape! Their nectar, pollen and seeds are fundamental for a diverse fauna in the sand dunes and heaths. Not only that, but they are also home for a number of insects and their larvae.

In order to increase the quantity of flowering plants in the sand dunes and heaths, a range of interventions will be implemented as part of Sand Life. Burning off old vegetation in order to allow more light to reach the ground. Creating patches of exposed sand in order to allow the plants seeds to germinate. Fencing off areas during certain periods to prevent grazing, allowing the plants to have the chance to flower and set seed.

In certain cases interventions will be targeted at individual species that make an especially significant contribution to overgrowth. One of these species is the false oat-grass (Arrhenatherum elatius) which benefits from the current nutrient conditions. False oat-grass benefits from an abundance of nitrogen and quickly covers large areas. As part of Sand Life, false oat-grass will be dug up, but it will also be discouraged indirectly as a result of lime being brought to the surface. Burning also removes the excess of nutrients that has collected in the dense vegetation.

More Grazing Through Fencing

Grazing significantly inhibits the overgrowth of shrubs and brush. Grazing also benefits many species of insects and fungi on the sand dunes and heaths. Therefore, we would like grazing animals to remain on the land. As part of Sand Life, we will increase the opportunities for keeping grazing animals in many areas by building nearly 16 km of fencing, digging wells to provide the animals with water and setting up pens in which to gather the animals. Gates and stiles that allow people and tractors access are further interventions that will also increase the opportunities for keeping animals, at the same time as making the area accessible for outdoor pursuits

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