Dune succession in a natural
Aberlady salt marsh
Definition: a plant succession or a stable environment where human
activities have a significant impact on vegetation
The dune systems at Aberlady Bay provide a good example
of a plagiosere. The dunes have been used and managed by humans
over many centuries produce a complex vegetation mosaic.
The natural vegetation has been modified in many ways:
- The Aberlady Bay dune system has been part of a Local Nature Reserve
since 1952. It is managed for the conservation of its plants, animals and birds.
- The Reserve receives
many visitors and uncontrolled access led to erosion of paths and the development of
blow-outs. Today, a system of managed paths reduces the visitor impact.
- In the 1930’s blow outs occurred as a result of taking too much marram grass
to use as thatch.
- Due to the lack
of hunting and wild-fowling over the last 50 years, there has been a great
increase in grazing pressure due to numbers of herbivores, including rabbits,
roe deer and geese. This has created large areas behind the dunes that are
dominated by grasses and flowers that can withstand heavy grazing. Many of these
plants are calcium-loving, reflecting the high calcium contents in the
shell-rich raised beach sands that form the ground surface here.
area of links grassland is managed by mowing – this is to encourage the growth of
new grass for geese and to provide suitable nest sites for peewits.
- A larget area of links is now part of Gullane golf course. Here the climax
vegetation has been suppressed by planting and mowing.
- During WW2 the dunes were used heavily for military training but, although the
remains of tank traps and fortifications can still be seen, the vegetation has
- The vegetation becomes very dry after drought, with
danger of fire.
- The sewage outfall pipe for Aberlady and Gullane passes through the dunes. Its
laying in 1968 required the digging of a trench and the replanting of dune
vegetation and its path is still clearly visible on the ground and from the
At neighbouring Gullane Bents the management has been more intensive.
After extensive damage due to WW2 military manoeuvres and consequent blow-outs
there was concern over the loss of habitat and the drop in tourist numbers.
Parts of the eroded dune system were remodelled by earth movers and then
planted with marram and sea buckthorn.