Removing Japanese rose (Rosa rugosa) on the Sefton Coast

Dynamic Dunescapes

Natural England in partnership with Green Sefton will be undertaking conservation work across the Sefton Coast to remove dense areas of Japanese Rose (Rosa rugosa) over the winter 2022/23.

Rosa rugosa is an invasive non-native species that if left untreated can take over our sand dunes. It’s rapid, dense growth stabilises the dunes too much, and our native plant and animal species suffer as a result.

When healthy, sand dunes are a rich and vibrant ecosystem. On the Sefton Coast, sand dunes are home to rare, specialist species like the natterjack toad and the sand lizard. Growth of Rosa Rugosa threatens these species by decreasing the amount of suitable habitat for them to live in.

Rosa rugosa now covers over 6 hectares of Sefton Coast Dunes – more than 12 football fields. 3 hectares will be removed using heavy machinery and buried deep enough at the same location to prevent the plants from regrowing. More difficult-to-reach areas of Rosa Rugosa growth will be treated.

Work will take place in December 2022 and January 2023.

Japanese rose (Rosa rugosa)
Japanese rose (Rosa rugosa)
Common Questions


What is an invasive species?

Invasive species are plants or animals that can overwhelm important aspects of sand dune biodiversity and function, both above and below ground. Invasive species are one of the top five drivers of biodiversity loss worldwide.


What is Rosa rugosa?

Rosa rugosais a plant species which is native to coastal habitats in Eastern Asia. First introduced to the UK around 150-200 years ago as an ornamental plant, it later escaped from gardens and flourished across our own dune habitats. Its thick bushes produce pink flowers and its seeds are eaten by birds which help it to spread.

Once established, growth is fast, leading to its rapid expansion over large areas of dune habitats, smothering native plant growth. It significantly reducing biodiversity by creating dense thickets that shade out open dune habitats.

Japanese rose outcompeting native marram grass ad reducing bare sand habitat
Japanese rose outcompeting native marram grass ad reducing bare sand habitat

Why is the Sefton Coast special?

The Sefton Coast is a protected Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) for its incredible dune habitats and species. However, if non-native invasive species like Rosa rugosa are left unchecked, vast areas of our dune system and native plants and animals are at risk from being lost altogether.

Birkdale Sand Hills LNR is designated not only for its sand dune habitats but also for its important population of rare sand lizards who need bare sand for basking and egg-laying and will benefit greatly from the removal of these invasive non-native species.


How did the Rosa rugosa get to Sefton’s dunes?

Rosa rugosa is an ornamental plant that is popular in gardens and public spaces. It can spread directly from gardens near to dune site and its seeds can be carried by birds to dunes. The illegal dumping of garden waste can also bring it to our dunes.

Sand lizard on the Sefton Coast
Sand lizard on the Sefton Coast

Why is herbicide being used on some of the Rosa rugosa?

Some areas that Rosa Rugosa is present are too difficult to get the diggers and heavy machinery into. Without treatment, the Rosa rugosa spreads prolifically, so in these locations a selective herbicide is the best option to slow and stop the plant’s march across the dune landscape.


What other threats do sand dunes face?

There are other invasive species such as sea buckthorn, which is not native to the west coast, and Japanese knotweed which pose similar threats to Rosa rugosa.

With less animal grazing keeping vegetation growth controlled – such as from wild ponies, cattle and rabbits – our sand dunes have become over stabilised, reducing the area of bare sand habitat that is available in the dune system. Bare sand is vital for pioneer plants, and also species like the natterjack toad, northern dune tiger beetle and sand lizard.


What other work has Dynamic Dunescapes / Natural England and Green Sefton done to rejuvenate sand dunes on the Sefton Coast?

Conservation grazing using sheep and cattle is in place on the Ainsdale Sand Dunes NNR and Ainsdale Sandhills LNR to keep dune vegetation growth under control and allow pioneer and specialist plants to flourish.

Notches – large, v-shaped gaps in the frontal dunes – have been excavated at Ainsdale Sand Dunes NNR and at National Trust Formby. These allow sand to be blown naturally through the dunes from the beach, where it restores some of the important bare-sand habitat that is now missing from these dune systems.