A Study into the Impacts of Rosa rugosa Invasion on Sand Dune Flora and Fauna Biodiversity

Jenna Taylor

Hello, my name’s Jenna. I’m a mature student studying for a degree in Ecology and Conservation Management at Myerscough College. I worked for many years in administration and planning for industries such as Network Rail and The Environment Agency. During a lockdown induced epiphany I decided to go back into education to gain qualifications in something I actually feel passionate about, it turned out to be the best decision I’ve ever made!

When I heard about the research projects that were available with the Dynamic Dunescapes Project, I jumped at the opportunity to get involved. In the summer of 2022, I collected data out on Fleetwood sand dunes to determine the impacts that Rosa rugosa has on the biodiversity of native flora and fauna. Rosa rugosa is a rose shrub native to Eastern Asia - introduced to the UK in the 18th century as an ornamental plant, it has since spread aggressively across sand dune habitats. In the UK, Rosa rugosa is classified as a non-native plant species that is invasive to UK sand dunes. This is due to how successful the Rosa rugosa is at taking over sand dune habitats, creating dense thickets and blocking out sunlight causing the absence of native plant species, such as Sea Holly (Eryngium maritimum), Common Restharrow (Ononis repens) and Sea Bindweed (Soldanella montana).

A blue butterfly on dry grass
A common blue butterfly at Fleetwood
A view of the dunes meeting the sea and blue sky
The dunes at Fleetwood

The data was collected for this research project using three types of ecological survey techniques: pitfall traps, net sweeping, and vegetation quadrat surveys. A pitfall trap is a small trap that is dug into the ground and left for a minimum of five hours in the hope of collecting any invertebrates, reptiles, or amphibians. Net sweeping consists of sweeping a net through the vegetation in order to identify invertebrates such as bees or butterflies. A vegetation quadrat survey involves measuring out a 1m² on the ground, identifying the plant species and calculating a percentage of plant cover within the square. The 1m² vegetation quadrat is measured out using a tape measure and bamboo canes are used to make out the four corners. A pitfall trap was then dug into the ground within the measured area. All flora and fauna within the survey areas were identified using the appropriate identification guidebooks.

The aim of this research project was to analyse the impacts of Rosa rugosa on flora and fauna biodiversity at Fleetwood sand dunes. Results from the data collection confirm that Rosa rugosa has a negative impact on sand dune flora and fauna biodiversity and that this species requires removing from UK sand dunes in order to protect dune habitats and biodiversity.

The expected outcome was to confirm the difference in biodiversity in areas where Rosa rugosa is present and where Rosa rugosa is absent. Results from the data confirm that not only does the presence of Rosa rugosa have a negative impact on biodiversity, so does the height of the Rosa rugosa. Areas where no Rosa rugosa was present resembled a heathy dune habitat with various flora and fauna species recorded.

A tape measure in the rosa rugosa to measure the depth
Measuring the depth of the Rosa rugosa at Fleetwood
Japanese rose rosa rugosa takes over the sand dunes
A dense patch of Rosa rugosa growing at Fleetwood

The project has been a vital learning experience, gaining statistical data analysis skills, independent ecological survey data collection, project management and in industry networking. Cumbria Wildlife Trust and Wyre Council were very supportive and helpful throughout the project. I am very grateful to the Dynamic Dunescapes Project for this opportunity.

A lady smiles for a photo

About the author

Jenna Taylor
Mature Student

Jenna is exceptionally passionate about nature and has recently graduated from studying for a degree in Ecology and Conservation Management. In her free time, Jenna enjoys calming walks, gardening, and teaching yoga.