The aim of Sand Life is to reinstate the abundant flora and fauna of the sand dunes and heaths of southern Sweden. The habitats of the species that populate the sand dunes and heaths will be recreated and improved through restoration. Species that have vanished will be given the opportunity to return.

These environments will also be made accessible to visitors. The exciting, varied sand dunes and heaths will provide a change to experience the wonders of the natural world.

The project has a budget of 7,8 milion euro to cover restoration and management measures, monitoring the impact of these measures on the unique flora and fauna of the sandy habitats and a large investment in communicating and providing information about the work we are doing.

The project encompasses 23 Natura 2000 areas in the three southern Swedish counties Skåne, Kalmar and Halland.

Why is Sand Life necessary?

The sandy habitats of the southern part of the country are among Sweden’s most species-rich environments. They constitute the most northerly outpost many species have in Europe. Many of them are rare and endangered. What these animals, plants and fungi share is that they require warmth, prefer a dry, warm climate and require access to open spaces with exposed sand.

Many of our sandy environments were once grazed or cultivated. Despite lacking in nutrients, the land could be cultivated if it was allowed to lie fallow and rest before being planted with crops again. The worst soils could only be planted once every 10-20 years. A landscape resembling a mosaic was thus created, with a mixture of ground covered in exposed sand and vegetation.

The increasingly intensive use of the sandy soils during the 18th and 19th centuries led to a problem with drifting sand. Large, often national, campaigns were instituted in order to stabilise the sand. That was how many pine plantations came about and the dunes along our coasts came to be planted with various types of grass and Japanese rose (Rosa rugosa) in order to keep the sand in place. The rationalisations of the 20th century in the agricultural sector led to the remaining sand dunes and heaths being cultivated all the more intensively, mainly through the introduction of artificial fertilisers and pesticides.

Today, many sand dunes and heaths are no longer varied environments. They have been given over to cultivation, planted with trees and shrubs, commercially exploited or have become overgrown. The conditions for biodiversity in the sand dunes and heaths that remain are limited. These areas are often spread out like small postage stamps in a landscape that is inhospitable to sand-dwelling species and impossible for them to live in.

In recent decades there has been a growing awareness that we need to rethink our management of sand dunes and heaths. We have to begin recreating the breaks in our sand dunes and heaths that existed for thousands of years in our cultivated landscape. Over the course of the 21st century, knowledge has been compiled on many endangered species in the sand dunes and heaths as part of the national action programmes for endangered species. The need to take action in constantly increasing and is not keeping pace with the funds that are available for restoration and maintenance. The additional funds from the EU’s LIFE Programme is thus a welcome boost.