Barrow born-and-bred ecologist will work with local communities to restore Cumbria’s sand dunes
Cumbria’s sand dunes, home to threatened species such as the rare natterjack toad, have a new local champion. Barrow born-and-bred Eve Mulholland has recently started work as People Engagement Officer for Dynamic Dunescapes, a three-year project to restore damaged and disappearing sand dunes across England and Wales for the benefit of wildlife, people and communities.
Eve, who is based at Cumbria Wildlife Trust’s South Walney Nature Reserve near Barrow, says: “Growing up in Barrow, I’ve always been fascinated by the dunescapes and now I’m delighted to be part of a national effort to restore these special habitats. I can’t wait to start working with local people of all ages and get them excited about bringing these beautiful places back to life!”
She tells us why sand dunes need to be saved: “Dunes are really important habitats. They’re home to a wide variety of wildlife and are a sanctuary to rare species like the natterjack toad, which is only found in a handful of special places in the UK, with Sandscale Haws, Barrow home to one of the largest populations, as well as the very rare dune helleborine. Sadly though, dunes are one of the most threatened environments in Europe for biodiversity loss and they are damaged. The Dynamic Dunescapes partnership will enable us to work with key organisations and local people, to restore dunes on the west Cumbrian coast, and give greater protection to these important species.”
As People Engagement Officer in Cumbria, Eve will bring local people of all ages and abilities into the project and get them involved in saving the dunes. While she’s based in Barrow, the restoration work will stretch down the west coast from Silloth on the Solway, to Fleetwood in Lancashire.
The coronavirus lockdown has meant she hasn’t been able to get out and work closely with local people yet, but she says: “I’m really looking forward to doing this, as soon as it’s safe to do so. There are lots of ways for people to get involved, including walks, talks and family activities. I’ll be working with schools, offering free educational resources, and will also be looking for volunteers to help with practical conservation, running events, citizen science and surveying species. I’m busy planning now and contacting different groups, and I can’t wait to meet everyone!”
Eve explains how the sand dunes can be restored: “Decades of conventional management, increase in nitrogen deposition, invasive species and change in land use has meant that they’ve become overgrown with scrub and have stabilised.
“We now realise this is putting protected wildlife at risk. Healthy sand dunes need to be free to move and be ‘dynamic’ for species to thrive, hence the name of the project. The conservation work will include things like scrub control, invasive species removal, pond creation and restoration, turf stripping, managed cattle grazing and restoration of rabbit populations.
“Did you know that rabbits can play an important role in keeping dunes healthy? By grazing, they keep the grass short for insects and amphibians and by burrowing, they create small areas of bare sand! All this work will help rejuvenate the biodiversity on the dunes.”
Emma Brisdion, Communications Officer for Dynamic Dunescapes, says: “What makes the project so exciting is that we’re using a range of pioneering conservation techniques. The partner organisations are working closely to better understand how to manage sand dune habitats for wildlife and people, and we can use our progress to help inform the safeguarding of the future of dunes even further afield!”
Volunteers, schools and community groups who want to get involved with Dynamic Dunescapes in Cumbria can contact Eve on [email protected]
For more details go to https://www.cumbriawildlifetrust.org.uk/volunteering-opportunities/opportunities-dunes
Dynamic Dunescapes is a partnership project between Natural England, Plantlife, Natural Resources Wales, National Trust and the Wildlife Trusts. The project is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the EU LIFE Programme. Working across 34 sites in England and Wales, the projects aims to undertake 7,000 hectares of conservation restoration, supporting 33 important sand dune species.