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Findhorn Hinterland Trust to host information event and guided walk on protecting dune ecosystem from Sunshine Room, Park Ecovillage on Sunday

By Garry McCartney

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Endangered Felt Lichen.
Endangered Felt Lichen.

A LOCAL environmental charity is holding an open day for a beach ecosystem restoration project.

Findhorn Hinterland Trust (FHT) is concerned about threats to rare wildlife species at the Findhorn dunes and is considering how best to take action to restore sand and shingle habitats on land that it manages adjoining the Park Ecovillage.

Trust chairman Jonathan Caddy said the dunes were historically part of the second largest sand dune system in Europe.

He said: “I’ve seen parts of them change from largely open sand and shingle to dense gorse.

“FHT has been working to save the most important habitats using a brush cutter and volunteer work parties for the last decade, but the scope of the problem is beyond the capacity of our hand tools.”

Trustee and founder of fellow Findhorn-based charity Trees for Life, Alan Featherstone, has coordinated biodiversity surveys on the land.

He said: “They show that the dunes contain specialist species found in only a few other places in the UK. The moth Scythris Empetrella is found at only one other place. And the Sandy Earthtongue fungus, widespread on Findhorn’s dunes, is known from only two other sites. However, all species, no matter how inconspicuous, are an integral part of the web of life and deserve our help.”

Local lichen expert Heather Paul highlighted the dunes national importance.

She said: “These species need open sandy habitats to survive and are threatened by rapid scrub encroachment.

“The UK’s State of Nature Report showed that 16 per cent of UK wildlife species are threatened with extinction so we have a responsibility to take action.”

Sand dune habitat restoration on the Moray Firth is seen as a high priority by conservation organisations, including the RSPB and Butterfly Conservation, as well as by Forestry and Land Scotland.

Ecologist Sean Reed, who is helping to plan restoration work, said: “Wind speeds have been reduced by historic building development and plantation forestry, allowing scrub to spread. This is a situation which is seen across Europe, so natural sand dune ecosystems are extremely rare.

“We aim to connect the remaining patches of high-quality open habitats with corridors of new sand and shingle, using a forestry mulcher.”

The information event is 2pm on Sunday, March 17 at the Sunshine Room, Park Ecovillage. It includes an optional walk.

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