Bertra Beach Dunes Project
Damage to our sand dunes is evident all around the coast. In 2021, the Climate Action Regional Offices launched a campaign in collaboration with local authorities and NUI Galway to highlight the importance and fragility of these natural coastal protections and important habitats.
The preservation and strengthening of natural coastal defences, such as sand dune systems, plays an important role in increasing our coastal resilience to the impacts of climate change. Other countries, such as the Netherlands, are protecting and restoring their sand dune systems as a cheaper and better method - in some cases - than hard coastal protection works.
The launch of the #ProtectOurDunes campaign highlights the importance of conserving these vital coastal habitats around the world. This initiative is asking the public to help protect the dunes by enjoying the beach responsibly and will include awareness raising measures on social media to convey the importance of our sand dunes to coastal resilience and biodiversity, how they can be easily damaged from recreational activities, along with simple measures to preserve them.
The main objective of the #ProtectOurDunes campaign is to raise public awareness around the value of sand dunes, how dunes are formed and the potential damage that can be caused to dunes from human activity. The public are being advised of activities that can damage our sand dunes, including trampling on the dunes, sliding down the dune face, wild camping and campfires, sports training and roaming dogs. We can protect them by staying off the dunes, keeping to designated pathways and camping areas, following the direction of local signage and watching wildlife from a distance.
Supporting information, videos and communication toolkits for coastal communities are available on the CARO website www.caro.ie/projects-research/campaigns/sand-dune.
This project began over concern for Bertra Beach. It quickly became a project about the very future of the coastal landscape and its local communities (hence ‘connected’). The idea is to develop a local climate adaptation plan for the area from Belclare through Murrisk and on to Lecanvey. Social, economic, cultural and environmental aspects are all intertwined and need to be incorporated in the vison of the future. The Bertra Connected group members include local communities, Mayo County Council, National Parks and Wildlife Service, NUI Galway, Clean Coasts and Leave No Trace.
The sand dunes at Bertra beach have reduced by over 60% in the last decade. The popular beach is under severe pressure from climate change and over-use for recreation. The projected increase in the strength and intensity of the Atlantic Winter storms combined with higher wave surges and sea-level rise means that the beach is extremely susceptible to coastal erosion. A once full dune system on the beach is now shrinking rapidly and does not appear to building back up and recovering naturally as it once did. Therefore, there is fear that this protective feature for the entire area will be soon be gone.
There are many reasons why people fear the loss of Bertra, in itself it’s a beautiful spot, its dunes shelter rare plants and animals, its position and size protect valuable shellfish beds behind it, while also protecting the communities living there, even Westport feels the protective benefits.