Sands of Time Title
This site provides detailed information on the sand dunes of the Sefton coast in North West England
Home Page
Coastal Change
A History
  Physical Forces
Growth & Erosion
Future Change
Managing Change
Primary Succession
Model of Succession
The Strand Line
Embryo Dunes
Mobile Dunes
Blow Outs
Semi-fixed Dunes
Fixed Dunes
Dune Slacks
Dune Heath
Vegetation/Soil Data
Studying Succession
Pine Plantations
Project Objectives
Project Partners
Project Funding
Related Links
Mobile Dunes

Upward growth of the embryo dunes allows the surface to be raised so it is out of the reach of all but the highest storm tides. This, together with the washing by fresh rainwater, results in a slightly less salty and unstable substrate. Under these conditions another grass is able to colonise - Marram Ammophila arenaria. Marram grass is the major dune building grass. It is tall and robust (but flexible in the wind) and very effective at trapping sand by reducing the windspeed at the surface. This remarkable grass is able to grow upwards through accumulating sand at rates of up to one metre a year. Thus, if there is a plentiful supply of sand from the beach, Marram will build up the sand to form high mobile dunes.

Marram on Mobile Dunes
Marram on mobile dunes

The environment is still extremely stressful to plants and over large areas of the frontal dune ridge (formed by the coalescence of the original embryo dunes) Marram is the dominant and only species present. Bare sand can clearly be seen between the clumps of Marram (see vegetation and soil data relating to Quadrat 1). The dead leaves of the Marram add organic matter to the soil which increases water-holding capacity and also breaks down to release plant nutrient. On the landward side of the frontal dunes the surface is more sheltered from the onshore winds and the effects of sea spray. More (still highly adapted) plants are able to colonise and the species diversity starts to increase. Good examples of these plants are

  •  Sea Holly Eryngium maritimum
  •  Sea Spurge Euphorbia paralias
Sea Spurge and Sea Holly on the Mobile Dunes
Sea Spurge and Sea Holly on the mobile dunes

With gradual amelioration of conditions for plant growth and increasing distance from the sea, the species diversity continues to increase. A much smaller and very fine-leaved grass starts to fill in the bare spaces between the clumps of Marram - this is

  • Red Fescue Festuca rubra

See vegetation and soil data relating to Quadrat 3.



For more information about this project email at Liverpool Hope University.
  Go to the site of Liverpool Hope University    

Liverpool Hope University worked with English Nature and the
Sefton Coast Partnership to implement the Sands of Time project.