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Dynamic Dunescapes at Studland Bay

Three visitors walk among the scrub as they explore the Sand Dune Trail at Studland Bay, Dorset
The Sand Dune Trail at Studland Bay | © National Trust Images / Trevor Ray Hart

Dynamic Dunescapes is a three-year project aiming to restore sand dunes across England and Wales. Funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the EU LIFE Programme, the work will increase biodiversity, improving the habitats that allow rare plants and wildlife to thrive. Find out how the work is taking shape at Studland Bay in Dorset with some help from volunteers.

What is the Dynamic Dunescapes project?

Sand dunes are one of the most threatened habitats in Europe. Dynamic Dunescapes is a three-year project to restore the dunes and increase the numbers of rare wildlife that depend on sandy habitats. Species that will benefit from the project include sand lizards, meadow pipit birds and heath tiger beetles.

We’re using a variety of methods to achieve this, including the reintroduction of livestock grazing and the removal of encroaching vegetation by staff and volunteers.

Habitats under threat

Over the past 100 years, Studland’s sand dunes have become over-vegetated and have declined in biodiversity.

Another big change happening is at Little Sea. This freshwater lake once supported a variety of wildlife due to the high acidity levels and nutrient-poor, crystal-clear water.

The effects of carp

Carp were illegally introduced to Little Sea with devastating effects. They eat the aquatic plant life and churn up the base of the lake, which has increased the amount of sediment, making the lake water look muddy.

This has resulted in a dramatic loss of species and a decline in overwintering birds. Encouraging predators such as cormorants and otters to inhabit the area will help reduce carp numbers.

Latest Dynamic Dunescapes project updates

June 2021

Red Devon cattle

Cattle return to the dunes

This summer cattle returned to graze in the dune heath for the first time in 80 years. The cows graze the densely vegetated areas well away from the beach and the busiest paths. 

Feeding on purple grass

The cows feed on purple moor grass and willow in the wet areas. They’ll also trample through the heather and gorse to help keep the new sandy spaces open.

A hardy breed

Red Devon cattle have been chosen as they’ve previously grazed other National Trust sites in Purbeck. They’re a hardy breed well suited to grazing the rough grasses and other vegetation found on heathland and among the dunes. 

Earlier projects at Studland Bay

1930: Cyril Diver surveys the dunes

During the 1930s naturalist Captain Cyril Diver (1892-1969) and other volunteers meticulously surveyed, mapped and recorded the wildlife of the heath and dune system on the peninsula.

The survey recorded that about 30 per cent of Studland Bay was bare sand.

2013–2015: Resurveying the peninsula

A three year project between 2013-2015 resurveyed the peninsula, with close reference to the original Diver archive material.

As in the 1930s, specialist surveys were conducted by volunteers and a project officer. This showed that now only two per cent of the dunes are bare sand due to accelerated plant growth.

Tracking the changes

To enable us to track these changes and ensure that the impact we are having is a positive one, a citizen science project is under way that will work alongside the Dynamic Dunescapes project.

Working with volunteers

The Citizen Science volunteers record data on the dunes. The volunteers look at dune profiling and carrying out surveys of wildlife and vegetation.
Find out more about the Citizen Science programme.

Want to know more?

The Dynamic Dunescapes website contains further information about the projects across the country.

Find out more about Dynamic Dunescapes

Studland's Dynamic Dunescapes engagement officer is Julia Galbenu. If you’re interested in volunteering or finding out more please email Julia at

Are you an education provider?

The dunes are an excellent habitat for education groups and learning.

We have resources including KS3/4 coursework material, coastal case studies, photos, dunes transect data and plant identification guides.

Please email us at for teachers packs and learning resources.

A view of visitors walking along Knoll Beach from the dunes at Studland Bay, Dorset


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Our partners

Fundraising Regulator

The independent regulator of charitable fundraising in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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Dynamic Dunescapes partner

Restoring sand dunes across England and Wales for the benefit of people, communities and wildlife.

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Heritage Fund

Inspiring, leading and resourcing the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future.

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