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European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency
News article14 November 2022European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency

New flood protection thanks to nature restoration

LIFE09 NAT/NL/000418
LIFE09 NAT/NL/000418/Natuurmonumenten/Ruud Luntz

The LIFE project Dutch Dune Revival restored nearly 190 hectares of white dune, grey dune and dune slack habitats.

Dune complexes in Natura 2000 network sites in the west and southwest of the Netherlands comprise calcareous and decalcified dry dunes, older dune slacks, salt marshes, beach plains and new dunes, and include many other habitats listed in the Habitats Directive.

The main aim of the Dutch Dune Revival project, which ran for six years from 2010, was to enlarge and restore dune habitats and increase the presence of rare and characteristic species in three well-known Dutch dune complexes in the Natura 2000 network in the southwest of the country: Voornes Duin, Duinen Goeree & Kwade Hoek and Kennemerland-Zuid.

Marieke Kuipers, the project coordinator for work in Kennemerland-Zuid, explains how the project’s novel methods for enlarging the dunes using wind dynamics proved successful. She said, ‘We first thought the dunes would grow about 3-5 metres a year in width. But they grow ten times more. It’s successful for nature but also for sea defence because we need higher and more robust dunes when the sea level rises. So, it’s an excellent example for the whole of Holland, and even in the northwest of Europe, we all learn from this project.’

The sister project Amsterdam Dune focused on developing best practices in the reactivation of blowout features in some 250 ha of fixed dune landscape. Blowouts are saucer-shaped wind-driven areas of mobile sand, and the project has shown that they are vital for the long-term health of fixed dune habitat by spreading calcium- and nutrient-rich sand. Rare plants and invertebrates benefit from the fresh calcareous sand, with the positive effects lasting for decades.

Blowouts are reactivated by recreating the conditions necessary for the right kind of dune biodiversity to return to the living landscape of the dunes.  That meant removing scrub, trees and grassy vegetation and restoring the original habitat – and its biodiversity.  

Jowien van der Vegte is a warden for Natuurmonumenten at the national park Zuid-Kennemerland and worked on Dutch dune revival, clearing non-native species, such as the black cherry and pine trees, to allow the area’s indigenous biodiversity to flourish once again. He said, ‘There are now a lot of birds in the dunes, dragonflies, grasshoppers, all kinds of beetles. The butterflies are a main objective for us because they have a relation with a lot of plants specific to the dune grassland, like the pansies. And it’s amazing; it’s very nice to be in an area like this with so much biodiversity.’

  • Hear more about the Dutch dune revival in the #LIFEis30 podcast series, episode ‘Roots in nature’.

Dutch dune revival supports the EU’s Habitats Directive, the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 and the Nature Restoration Law.