Along the Flemish coast, the coastal dunes are vulnerable to invasive species which risk disturbing the delicate ecosystem and out-compete rare local species.
When the project LIFE DUNIAS was launched, previous efforts to combat invasive alian species (IAS) along the Flemish coast had been rather haphazard and each project focused on a small area, without any overarching coordination between projects. The LIFE DUNIAS project, which is receiving funding from the European Union, aims to fight invasive species along the Flemish coast in a structured and coordinated way.
LIFE DUNIAS strives to both eradicated existing invasive species from all the Flemish coastal dunes and prevent the new arrival of invasive species. Several now threatened native species is expected to benefit from this.
The LIFE DUNIAS consists of several legs, including:
- Removal of existing invasive species from the dunes
- The development of an early warning system
- Volunteer training
- Raising increased awareness about the issues concerning invasive species among the
project´s target groups, including garden keepers, garden centres, plant nurseries, landscape architects, and nature site visitors.
Expected results of the project
Examples of expected results of the project:
- Exterminating invasive species from all the managed dune areas, i.e. from almost 3 800 ha of dunes. This will be doned in collaboration with over 15 different partners.
- Improved conditions for a number of coastal habitats.
- Improved population size and/or distribution of a number of Red List native species, including insects.
- Improved early detection of invasive species on the dunes. This will largely rely on trained volunteeers.
- Increased awarness about invasive species among target groups and stakeholders, such as the horticultural sector, plant nurseries, garden centres, garden keepers, landscape and garden architects, site managers, scientists, and policy makers.
- Best management techniques will be developed, which will be used to create decision support tools for the future. Project tools will be made accessable throughout the European Union.
About the Flemish coastal dunes
The Flemish coastal dunes faces the Atlantic and are home to a large number of Red List species.
Examples of habitats that exist here:
- Altantic salt meadows
- Shifting white dunes
- Fixed grey dunes
- Atlantic decalcified fixed dunes
- Embryonic dunes
- Annual pioneer vegetation on mud and sand
- Dunes with sea buckthorn
- Dunes with creeping willow
- Wooded dunes
- Dune slacks (small, nutrient-enriched, vegetated, moist depressions between shore dunes or in a sandbank, especially those which periodically scarcely moving water at times of highest tides)
The Flemish coastal dunes feature open and dynamic ecosystems, where it is fairly easy for certain invasive species to take hold and have a major impact on the system as a whole.
Notable invasive species
Examples of notable invasive species that currently exist on the Flemish coastal dunes are Rosa rugosa, Mahonia aquifolium, Baccharis halimifolia and Ailanthus altissima. The two latter onces have been classified as species of Union concert by the European Union, and are thus specifically targeted by EU IAS Regulation.
Rosa rugosa is a good illustration of the complexities surrounding many invasive species. While the species is not native to Europe, it has often been introduced for well-meaning reasons, such as preventing dune and soil erosion in coastal environments. Also, in its native China, it is actually listed as an endangered species due to population decline.
Rosa rugosa (Beach rose) is native to eastern and north-eastern Asia, including costal areas of China, Japan, the Korean peninsula, and south-eastern Siberia. Its native habitat is beach coasts, and it is well adapted to growing on sand dunes. Along beaches, it is often the shrub growing closest to the water, where other shrubs can not survive.
It was introduced to other parts of the world, including Europe, from Japan, and the oldest known report of it being planted in Europe is from 1796 when it was introduced to England. The first report from continental Europe is from Germany in 1845.
R. rugosa is valued because of its high tolerance to salt water spray and storms, and have an ability to prevent erosion in beach environments. It is also resilant against rose rust and rose black spot. Its tolerance to salt have made it a popular rose to plant along highways in Europe that receive a lot of salting in the winter season. A survey from 2001 showed that it was well-established in 61 Europan countries.
R. rugosa hybridises readily with many other roses, and its seeds can be spread by birds and other animals that eat the berries. Once introduced to an area, it will no longer rely on humans to spread local, and it can spread faily long distances and over bodies of water with the help of birds.