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New £4m rescue plan for wildlife on sand-dunes

It's hoped the plans will bring varied wildlife back to our coastline Photo: PA

A scheme to reverse the decline in wildlife-rich dune habitats on the Sefton coast by getting the sands shifting again has been given a £4 million funding boost.

It's called "dynamic dune-scapes", and marks a move away from the old approach to managing sand dunes by keeping them where they are with fencing and vegetation.

Sand needs to shift to encourage new wildlife Credit: PA

Sand dunes are home to rare plants and animals, with 70 species listed as conservation priorities including the natterjack toad, sand lizard and dune gentian, experts said.

But these important habitats have declined by a third since 1900 in the UK.

This will inject real dynamism into dunes and will revitalise wild plants which may appear rooted to the spot but are always on the move and benefit from shifting sands.

– Nicola Hutchinson, from wildlife charity Plantlife

"It's not easy to get the balance right - we need dunes to move but we don't want them to end up in people's gardens or taking over the beach-side car park.

"Thanks to this National Lottery funding and the expertise of the partnership organisations, this project can begin to find ways of addressing these pressing issues."

– Drew Bennellick, at the National Lottery Heritage Fund

With National Lottery funding the Government conservation agency Natural England has teamed up with the National Trust, Plantlife, The Wildlife Trusts and Natural Resources Wales to create more dynamic sand dune landscapes.

The project will conserve almost 7,000 hectares (17,300 acres) of sand dunes - some 35% of the total for England and Wales - and improve access for the public.

Conservation measures will include natural rabbit grazing, creating dune slacks or depressions that can be flooded, and removing invasive species.

The four-year scheme will also involve members of the public in monitoring wildlife and how the dunes are changing and train individuals and organisations in managing and researching the habitat.