Two decades of dune slack restoration in North Wales: diversity, community and habitat specialists

Nicola Johansen, Michelle Davis, Paul A. Ashton*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Humid dunes slacks are a highly threatened habitat, listed as vulnerable in the EU habitat red list. Accelerated successional processes in dune systems have resulted in the loss and degradation of ideal conditions for specialist dune slack species, hence the need for conservation management. We investigated the restoration of a dune slack in North Wales, UK, where vegetation and soil removal to 10 cm depth was undertaken to reinstate nutrient‐poor, open and damp conditions. We assessed the outcomes of the management for dune slack communities over the 18 years since restoration. We also assessed the differences between restored and unrestored areas of dune slacks. The dunes were restored in the winter of 2004/2005, after which we conducted vegetation surveys in fixed quadrats for most years in the restored and adjacent, un‐restored dune slacks. Species diversity and plant community composition changes over time were assessed using Shannon's index, multivariate analysis and indicator species analysis. Comparisons between the restored and unrestored areas of the dune slacks were also made. Ellenberg indicator values (EIVs) were examined to identify potential environmental drivers of post management successional changes. After 18 years the restored dune slacks developed a species‐rich and diverse community. compared to the unrestored slacks. The establishment of species occurred rapidly in the first three years, followed by continued but slower increases in species richness and diversity. This is due to the addition of new species without losses of established species. EIVs show no significant difference over time suggesting the restored areas are still at an early stage of succession. Distinct stages of community change since restoration are characterised by different indicator species. Plants are likely to be largely recruited from an existing seed bank. Restoration by turf removal may be suitable for other low nutrient, species rich habitats dependent upon fluctuating groundwater levels.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalNordic Journal of Botany
Early online date6 Mar 2024
Publication statusPublished - 8 Mar 2024


  • restoration
  • succession
  • indicator species
  • species diversity
  • dune slacks
  • plant communities


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