Dena O’Donovan / Southern Star Newspaper

IRL - Our Dunes Are Dying – But if We Move Quickly, We Can Save Them

Our beautiful sandy beaches are a major tourist pull. But the dunes that border them are under threat from climate change and, most especially, human footfall. Deirdre Hurley says there is a solution – if we act now.

West Cork is well endowed with beautiful sandy beaches, attracting thousands of visitors every year.

Some even have Blue Flag status – a stringent environmental and safety award that guarantees a minimum standard of cleanliness and safety for users.

But the Dune systems forming the backdrop to these beaches are, unfortunately, not being afforded the same stringent environmental protection.

Our dunes are fast eroding under a persistent platoon of beach-lovers running roughshod over them, up them, and down them – either to access the beaches, or using them as an outdoor gym.

Our dunes are being eroded by people.

Sand dunes are naturally formed coastal barriers that develop behind beaches over millennia, by windblown sand accumulating around the roots of low beach-loving plants, such as sea rocket and sea couch grass, forming small hillocks of sand. Over time, the hillocks grow larger and higher until marram grass, the great dune builder, forms the high sandy hills so familiar to us all.

These insignificant looking plants have long fibrous roots that penetrate down to the base of the dune and out to its edges.

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