The huge sand dune systems of Carmarthenshire stretch around Carmarthen Bay, from Gower to Tenby. The Carmarthenshire Bay Dunes SAC (Special Area of Conservation) is home to three major dune systems; Pembrey Burrows, Whiteford Burrows and Laugharne & Pendine Burrows.
This area is a particularly important home for plants; over 250 species of flowering plants, nearly 20% of all plant species found in Wales, can be found here. This project will rejuvenate 47 hectares of sand dunes at Pembrey Burrows Local Nature Reserve (LNR). Our work in Pembrey is led by Natural Resources Wales, working with Carmarthenshire County Council and Plantlife.
Pembrey is a beautiful village overlooking the Carmarthen Bay, and is home to a stretch of coast with some impressive dunes. Here you’ll find a great example of a barrier dune system which is less than 500 years old. In the last 100 years, these dunes and the delicate flora that live on them have become threatened by increasing levels of vegetation which have stabilised the sand.
Thick tall grasses, conifers and the invasive species sea buckthorn have spread across large areas of the dunes. This changes the habitat and makes it harder for sand dune-adapted plant and insect species to survive, and short grassland good for wildflowers becomes tall and less diverse. As thick plants start to grow in the dune slacks, the damp areas and seasonal pools are no-longer available for the plants and amphibians that normally live there. Rare species such as the fen orchid and the tiny petalwort liverwort have already been lost from the landscape.So, one of the project’s most important jobs is to remove this sea buckthorn, to allow the dunes to return to their natural state.
Rabbits can be an important part of a healthy sand dune system; through their grazing they keep vegetation short, which benefits wildflowers and many species of insect, and by burrowing they keep sand around the mouth of their burrows or warrens bare, allowing it to be moved through the dunes by the wind. Rabbit populations at Pembrey have fallen decreased in number in the last 50 years, so we will be creating better conditions for the remaining small rabbit populations. Removing sea buckthorn and patches of scrub gives them open grassland and sand to live and burrow in, allowing their numbers to increase again.
Pembrey also has an interesting history. There’s a great deal of WW1 and WW2 archaeology buried in the dunes, including that of an ammunitions factory. Removal of scrub and invasive species will allow us and local archaeology groups, to explore the site’s rich heritage and discover its historical treasures. It will also increase the access to the dunes for other local groups, including schools and allowing more opportunities for educational trips.
Wildlife you might see in Carmarthenshire
For botanists, the sand dunes of Carmarthenshire are an exciting place to explore. The beautiful sea stock with grey hairy leaves and purple flowers likes to put down roots in shifting sands.
Some of the orchids you might spot are the bee orchid and marsh helleborine - a beautiful orchid with pink and white flowers which can be found in the damp dune slacks.
On a sunny, quiet day, you might spot rabbits hopping across the grassland on the dunes, or grazing where vegetation is low.
Meet Your Friendly Face in Wales
Hi! I’m Hannah and I’m joining the team from the Dornoch Environmental Enhancement Project where I was both a researcher and a member of the science communication team; engaging with government, other researchers and introducing the public to the underwater world of oysters at science festivals. While interning with the Marine Conservation Society, I connected pupils in the UK and the British Virgin Islands, teaching classes about climate change and supporting students in the two countries to connect and meet online. I continue to volunteer with the MCS organising beach cleans and supporting volunteers with litter surveys. Since January 2020 - as a co-host of the podcast Wild About Conservation - I have been lifting the curtain on the world of conservation for listeners, exploring ecosystems and animals with the people who work in the field.
How can you get involved?
We are planning a whole host of events, guided walks, nature talks, citizen science projects, volunteering and training or work experience opportunities for the whole community to get involved in.
We’ll also be offering opportunities for local schools to explore the dunes and learn about the importance of sand dune habitats and species. We will regularly update our events page, so remember to check back often to see what we’ve added to our exciting calendar!