Coastal Sand Dunes

Coastal sand dunes form above the high water mark on sufficiently large beach plains and are stabilised by dune-building grasses.

Sand Dune

Photo: Sussex Wildlife Trust

Why are they important?

  • Sand dunes display a clear succession of vegetation from Marram Grass dominance to diverse plant communities, containing rare and specialised species such as Childing Pink.
  • They are important areas for reptiles including the uncommon Sand Lizard.
  • Sand dune systems are important for invertebrates such as bees, moths and grasshoppers and several notable species can be found.
  • Dune systems are important geomorphological structures; existing only under certain conditions, and they offer a valuable opportunity to study natural coastal processes.

Sand Dunes in Sussex

There are no major sand dune systems in Sussex, however small amounts of sand dune habitat can be found at East Head, Climping Beach and Camber Sands.

What are the threats?

  • Sand dunes are a mobile habitat however coastal development and sea defences can restrict their ability to move, threatening their integrity.
  • Recreation can damage fragile communities by trampling and erosion of the dunes.
  • A lack of management can result in dominance by scrub and loss of many important species.
  • Introduction of non-native species.

Some associated species

  • Stonechat Saxicola rubetra
  • Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus
  • Sand Dart Agrostis ripae
  • Long-winged Conehead Conocephalus discolor
  • Marram Grass Amophila arenaria
  • Common Evening Primrose Oenothera biennis

Marsh Helleborine

Photo: Laurie Jackson

Advice on coastal sand dunes


Sussex Targets

Biodiversity Action Reporting System Website

Download the Coastal Sand Dunes Habitat Action Plan