Dynamic Dune Restoration for climate change adaptation and nature conservation in the Netherlands

In the Netherlands, two coastal areas, Nationaal Park Zuid-Kennemerland and Noordhollands Duinreservaat, consist primarily of grey dune habitat. Instead of the traditional practice of fixing the dunes, Puur Water Natuur (PWN) changed the management to dynamic dune management, which had beneficial effects for climate change adaptation, biodiversity, and coastal defence.

Background of the project

At first, the dune management was done by fixing the dunes in one place, using vegetation. This was done as a way of coastal defence. Increased erosion required the regular addition of large quantities of sand. And because of the communicating vessels effect, when the sea level rises on one side of the dunes, so does the groundwater on the other side.

There was an increased social awareness of climate change issues, both inside the company, and at a national level. The effects of climate change became apparent when they started to record extreme dry summers in 2018 and 2019, and maxima in groundwater levels. In a practical sense, the current management that aims at fixing the dunes by planting vegetation was no longer sustainable. Increased erosion requires the regular addition of large quantities of sand.

Solution and actions taken

As a result of an experiment carried out as early as 2011 within the framework of the LIFE Dutch dune revival project, dynamic dune management was developed and subsequently adopted on a large scale.

The main action was to dig five notches next to each other in the first row of dunes. The goal was to allow fresh sand to enter the dune system beyond the first row under the action of the wind. This fresh sand supply is very valuable as it is rich in limestone and reduces the risk of soil acidification. In the first phase, regeneration of vegetation and a new cycle of plant succession was visible. In a second phase, the notches remained active and large white sand dunes were formed.

Other institutions or parties involved

PWN worked with Lake IJssel management team, and the Koninklijk Nederlands Meteorologisch Instituut (KNMI). The implementation of the climate change strategy was done through the LIFE “Dutch dune revival” project. Regarding the work done on dynamic systems, they have involved the water board and the national government, as they are responsible for coastal defence. They also involve recreational stakeholders and the neighbours—farmers, municipality, cycling path managers, et cetera.


The dynamic of the system is brought back, making it more robust and connecting nature patches. Species will therefore be able to move along the area. The system becomes more resilient by improving the diversity of species and habitats, habitat connectivity, and the dynamics of natural processes. For a virtual tour that showcases the difference between the old and the current situation, click here!


The main problems were, and still are, related to the infrastructure. Groundwater levels increase due to climate change and sea-level rise. The dynamic dune management system as well as the natural water management system can adapt to these rising levels and keep the water in the ecosystem. However, human infrastructures such as houses, fields, or cycling paths that lie close to the dune system will be affected. A seemingly apparent challenge was stakeholder involvement, however, in the end, this was overcome by timely involvement.

Lessons learned

At the beginning of the project, PWN was focused on conservation measures. Now they are more conscious of the necessity to also adapt the management approach and extend their conception of nature conservation. When managing an area, there are so many challenges and problems that the tendency is to deal with the current problems. However, climate change calls for a strategy in the long term. It pushes the manager to investigate the future.


SAND COAST ST. PETER-ORDING: Germany (Bundesprogramm leben.natur.vielfalt) Protecting and restoring coastal habitats. The sandbanks, salt marshes, dunes and the forest of St. Peter-Ording are unique natural assets and protect the hinterland from floods. Some are part of the Wadden Sea National Park and World Heritage Site, others of a Natura 2000 protected area. However, the natural dynamics of the older dune areas in St. Peter-Ording have been lost due to dyking, forestation and housing development. Introduced species are causing and sea-level rise will cause further distress to the coastal habitats. The aim of the joint project "Sand Coast St. Peter-Ording" is to improve the condition of the coastal landscape and to contribute to adaptation to sea-level rise. It is implemented together with local partners and with accompanying scientific research efforts. Further Information (in German), Questions? projekt(at)

Short report Symposium "Sand Coast St. Peter-Ording” on the development, protection and management of beach, dunes and forest at the Wadden Sea. 6. September 2023, Dünen-Hus St. Peter-Ording, Germany. Jannes Fröhlich, WWF, DE
The symposium "Sand Coast St. Peter-Ording" took place on 6 September 2023 in St. Peter-Ording, Germany, and offered a comprehensive insight into the development, protection and management of the unique coastal landscape of St. Peter-Ording at and in the Wadden Sea National Park and World Heritage Site. The event had a diverse target group with 74 participants from practice, science, nature conservation and coastal protection in authorities, associations, community and citizenship. An excursion to the project area took place on 5 September. A full report and the presentations (in German) will be published on

What was it about?
After 3 (of 6) years of running the project "Sand Coast St. Peter-Ording", we presented and discussed interim results from the diverse topics of dune nature conservation, forest conversion, coastal protection, geomorphology and nature experience. The exciting programme took a multifaceted look at the coastal landscape of St. Peter-Ording and beyond.

Based on presentations by experts from dune nature conservation and coastal research as well as contributions from the "Sand Coast" project, we addressed the following questions, among others:
What is known about the condition of the dunes on the North Sea coast as well as the nature in St. Peter-Ording?
How is the beach in St. Peter-Ording changing today and in the future?
How stable are the dunes in the face of storm surges and sea-level rise?
Why and how do dunes and forests need to be protected and partly managed? What are the possibilities and limits of mechanical maintenance measures and grazing?

The symposium was organised by the team of the project "Sand Coast St. Peter-Ording": WWF Germany, Wadden Sea Office; University of Kiel, coastal geology and sedimentology; Deich- und Hauptsielverband Eiderstedt (local dike board); Schutzstation Wattenmeer e .V.; Technical University of Braunschweig, Leichtweiß-Institut for Coastal Engineering.
The project is financed by the German Federal Programme on Biodiversity by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation with funds from the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection, and other sponsors.



LIFE - Strengthening Europe's sand dunes: Sand dunes are an important habitat for rare plants and wildlife. They also protect against erosion, flooding and storm damage. Learn how our LIFE projects are working to safeguard our dunes. detailed information. LIFE Nature publication highlights the issues threatening Europe’s coastal habitats and how the LIFE program has addressed them. Download LIFE and Coastal Habitats pdf

LIFE-Projects with focus on dunes...

DUNIAS: Belgium 2021-2026, Project-Website, EU-LIFE-description

The overall goal of the LIFE DUNIAS project is to fight IAS in the Belgian coastal zone in a structured and concerted way. The project’s specific objectives are to: Eradicate invasive alien plant species in all Flemish coastal dunes; Improve the conservation status of the target habitats by removing the pressure from IAS; Prevent the arrival of new IAS or return of eradicated IAS; Raise awareness with various target groups of the importance to take measures against IAS; Exchange knowledge on IAS distribution and best practices for combating IAS; and Improve an existing early warning system and stimulate volunteers to record IAS observations. Workshop 2022 in the framework of the LIFE DUNIAS project in Belgium (Dune restoration by tackling IAS) occurred to work-out a list of invasive species in coastal dunes.

In May 2022 an expert meeting of IAS- and dune experts took place in Koksijde, Belgium in the context of the LIFE DUNIAS project. Most important outcomes of this workshop were best practices of tackling IAS, a systematic risk assessment of current en future IAS and a horizon scan of IAS in the Atlantic coastal dunes. Horizon scan lists can be found in the resulting report on the pages 37 (overall), 40 (salty habitats), 41 (sandy habitats), and 42 (shrubby habitats). P.44-47 summarizes the horizon scan list per country. A complete risk assessment list can be consulted from p. 156 onwards.

The report of current and future invasive plants in protected dune habitats of the Atlantic coastal region - including management accounts of selected species for the LIFE DUNIAS project (LIFE20 NAT/BE/001442). download pdf or further information WWW

A poster from the LIFE DUNIAS project presented at The Atlantic Biogeographic Seminar WWW


DUNAS: Portugal (Madeira) 2020-2025, Project-Website, EU-LIFE-description

CoastNet: Finland 2018-2025, Project-Website, EU-LIFE-description

The aim of the project is to restore important coastal and archipelagic habitats, such as sun-lihgt environments, coastal meadows, herb-rich forests and wooded pastures. The CoastNetLIFE Project aims to improve the conservation status of Natura2000 sites along the Baltic coastal zone of Finland and Estonia. The aim is to create a functional network of coastal habitats. The main focus is on open and semi-open environments that are typical of the coastal area. The project restores environments that are now in poor condition and supplement the network with new areas.


Dynamic Dunescapes: UK (England, Waldes) 2018-2023, Project-Website, EU-LIFE-description

Dynamic Dunescapes is a project restoring sand dunes across England and Wales for the benefit of people, communities and threatened dune wildlife. This project will restore nine key dune areas, from Cornwall to Cumbria. These key areas include 34 individual dune systems and cover up to 7,000 hectares. Natural England, Plantlife, National Trust, Natural Resources Wales, Wildlife Trusts, Cornwall Wildlife Trust, Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust and Cumbria Wildlife Trust are working in partnership to deliver this ambitious project. Running until 2023, this project will: restore sand dunes by carrying out pioneering conservation actions; raise awareness that healthy dunes need moving sand; encourage more people to explore, enjoy, and help protect the dunes through a program of innovative public engagement and citizen science events and activities; develop skills to manage dunes better, both now and in the future. Email: for contact.

Dynamic Dunescapes announced plans to create notches in the frontal dunes at Penhale, Cornwall. Penhale Dunes are one of the largest dune systems in Cornwall but it’s bare sand coverage has reduced to less than 2%. Partners in the area, Cornwall Wildlife Trust, applied for permission to create the notches and also carry out turf stripping to create more bare sand habitat and encourage these dunes to be more mobile again.

The works were completed in September. Cornwall isn’t the first location for notching works and if you’d like to know more about Dynamic Dunescapes’ learnings from the project, you can find lots of case studies on our website.

More information about finished projects related to dunes, see: DUNES-LIFE

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