REMOVE THE SAND FROM YOUR FEET

Sand dunes

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According to the Larousse dictionary, a dune is “a small hill of sand formed by the wind”. In France, the most famous one is Pilat on the Silver Coast, at the entrance to the Arcachon Basin. It is the highest in Europe (nearly 106 metres) and has become a popular tourist spot. Sadly, dunes in France are increasingly threatened. Why? And what can be done to protect them?

The findings are alarming. The dunes of France, especially those along the Atlantic coast, are decreasing in size and sometimes even completely disappearing. There are two reasons for this: firstly, the excessive urbanisation of the coastline which is destroying the ecosystem that favours the maintenance of these sandy hills. Secondly, global warming, which is causing the sea levels to rise and the number of storms to increase. The dunes are a natural protection against the elements for the populations who live along the coast, therefore, what solutions should be adopted to protect them?

The first would be to promote the presence of ponds. These are essential to one amphibian in particular, toads. According to specialists, they are an excellent barometer of a dune’s ecosystem. If the toad is present, it is because the dune and its immediate environment are "in good health".

The second solution to protect the ecosystem around a dune would be to strictly define areas accessible to walkers. More generally, informing and raising awareness among people wishing to access the beach via the dune or simply climb it is essential for protecting the flora and fauna in and around the dune. It is not necessarily the wind and the waves that are the main cause of erosion of the dunes but also trampling by walkers, with the latter slowly destroying the vegetation that retains the sand.

Finally, according to a study carried out as part of the French assessment of ecosystems and ecosystem services (EFESE), protecting and reinforcing the dunes would be much more effective and less costly for protecting the coastline and its homes. As an example, the cost of bringing sand to a beach is 100 times greater than the priority management of dune ecosystems. In short, the protection and management of the French dunes are of economic interest and, above all, are an ecological necessity.

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