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
Studying Sand Dune Succession

Succession is a process which operates through time. Because this is a slow process, change in soil and vegetation at any one location from bare sand to a late stage in the succession such as dune heath will take 100s of years. However, because the dunes near the coast are young and mostly become progressively older through time it is possible to use distance as a surrogate for time. As you walk from the strand line inland you will walk from young to old dunes. Remember that you will not always find this simple pattern. Blowouts may occur and create new surfaces within the dunes. On an eroding coastline, such as Formby Point, the dunes at the top of the beach will not be newly formed; they might have a well-established vegetation cover with a measurable soil organic horizon. Immediately landward of these eroding dunes there may be newly deposited sand which the wind has picked up from the eroding face of the seaward side of the dunes. Dune slacks may be encountered; these patches in the dune landscape are following a different successional pathway to the dry dune succession. Dune slack succession starts on wet sand. A transect is the best technique to use for the study of dune succession. Starting from the strand line a line is established at right angles to the shore. A compass can be used to take a bearing along the line. A tape is set down along the line of the transect. The vegetation can be sampled at intervals along the line by using a quadrat. You must carefully decide the following in the design of your study of succession along the transect line:

  • How big should the quadrat be? (one metre squared is a suitable size) What distance should there be between the quadrats along the line of the transect? (the quadrats may be continuous along the line, a belt transect, or they may be as much as 20 or 30 metres apart). Should the distance between the quadrats be the same every time or might you, for example, increase the sampling distance as changes become more gradual?
  • What are you going to record in your quadrat? (this might be percentage vegetation cover, percentage cover of each species identified in the quadrat, amount of bare sand, colour of the sand)

A clinometer or similar instrument may be used in conjunction with the tape to record a profile of the dunes along the transect line. Read about using a transect in your text books to help you design your study of succession.

Student studying sand dune succession
Student working on a transect studying sand dune succession


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.