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Title: An innovative sand dune restoration project from Malta
Authors: Deidun, Alan
Mallia, Adrian
Schembri, Patrick J.
Keywords: Sand dune conservation
Sand dune management -- Malta -- White Tower Bay
Coastal ecology -- Malta
Issue Date: 2003
Citation: Deidun, A., Mallia, A., & Schembri, P. J. (2003). An innovative sand dune restoration project from Malta. Sixth International Conference on the Mediterranean Coastal Environment MEDCOAST 03, Ravenna. 1-13.
Abstract: Sand dunes arguably qualify as the most endangered natural habitats in the Maltese Islands due to the small size of the dunes, the low proportion of sandy shores (just 2.4% of the entire islands‟ coastline), the intense human impact, and the lack of public awareness and information about these ecosystems. Out of 32 areas known to have harboured some sort of natural sand dune flora, only five localities now support dunes with a relatively intact characteristic dune vegetation. One of these, the dune at White Tower Bay was earmarked for a dune restoration project since this is the best-preserved sand dune system on the island of Malta. Main threats to the White Tower Bay dune include illegal camping activities and parking especially during summer, trampling by humans and off-road vehicles, ill-conceived afforestation schemes, cultivation in the dune‟s catchment area, and huts that abut on the dune. These threats operate even though the White Tower Bay sand dune is scheduled as an Area of Ecological Importance and a Site of Scientific Importance. Restoration of the White Tower Bay sand dune is being jointly undertaken by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority (MEPA) and the NGO Nature Trust (Malta), as part of MEPA‟s Environmental Initiative In Partnership Programme. Restoration includes both short-term (temporary) and long-term (permanent) measures. Emergency measures included the installation of metal bollards joined by metal chains around the dune‟s landwards border to prevent vehicular access to the dune from the road skirting it, as well as the installation of educational signs explaining the importance of the dune and the scope behind the restoration works. Due to consultation with stakeholders and their involvement from the onset, it was ensured that conflicts were minimized. The permanent restoration measures will be completed within the next few years. These include the gradual relocation of the huts, closure of the road surrounding the dune, the manual removal of alien flora, and the planting of Ammophila littoralis (marram grass) – a stabilising pioneer species of foredunes that is now extinct from the Maltese Islands – along the seaward margins of the dune. In addition, the complete removal of seagrass wrack from the beach will be discouraged. Special emphasis will be placed on the educational value of the site and on effective enforcement of existing and planned regulations concerning the area through wardening. This restoration project is locally (and perhaps regionally) innovative for a number of reasons, including the extensive and ongoing consultative process with all stakeholders, the emphasis on the educational value of the site, the basing of restoration measures on sound scientific research, and the inclusion of a monitoring programme to assess effectiveness of the interventions and to fine-tune these as the need arises. This initiative can serve as a pilot upon which other habitat restoration projects may be based.
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