Dunas Laida - Dune regeneration on Laida beach (Urdaibai)

LIFE04 NAT/ES/000031

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Contact details:

Project Manager: Xabier ARANA EIGUREN
Tel: +34946257125
Fax: +34946257253
Email: urdaibai@ej-gv.es

Project description:


Dunes are coastal ecosystems formed by the combined action of the wind, waves, sea currents and vegetation. They are fragile and dynamic ecosystems, which evolve in accordance with prevailing environmental conditions. They are of particular value along the Basque coast, where over 80% of the original dunes have disappeared and with them, important flora and fauna species belonging to those habitats. The Laida beach dunes (Ibarrangelua, Bizkaia, Basque Country) are part of the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve, a large natural expanse covering 22 hectares located between the capes of Matxitxako and Ogoño. The site is part of the Natura 2000 network classified as a Site of Community Interest and a Special Protection Area for Birds. It is also included in the RAMSAR list of wetlands of international importance. The main threats to the dune systems come from the intensive tourist pressure suffered mainly during the summer period. Once the dune is destroyed and the vegetation is lost, the natural regeneration is almost impossible. Dumping of silt dredged on the supra-tidal beach area for the maintenance of navigation routes is another threat of human origin if it is done in places not adequate for the dune formation. Climate change could also pose a possible threat in the medium to long-term, in particular rising temperatures may lead to an increase in the frequency of sea-storms that could cause erosion to the dunes.


The dune regeneration on Laida beach project is part of the restoration of maritime dunes along the European Atlantic coasts and included the restoration of two habitats included in Annex I of the Habitats Directive: shifting dunes along the shoreline with Ammophila arenaria (‘white dunes’) and embryonic shifting dunes. These habitats favour the presence of fauna species included in annexes of the nature directives, such as the Schreiber's green lizard (Lacerta schreiberi) included in Annexe II of the Habitats Directive and several birds included in Annexe I of the Birds Directive, such as The European nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus), the merlin (Falco columbarius) or the pigeon-hawk (Lanius collurio). The overall objective was to regenerate the costal dune ecosystem at Laida beach by means of bio-engineering methods and by raising awareness among the local population of the value and of the need to protect these ecosystems. Specific objectives were to: • Restore six ha of the coastal dune habitats by establishing dune belts • Achieve a cover of dune vegetation that would fix and help to regenerate the dune system • Minimize the impact of people on the dunes by establishing a perimeter enclosure • Disseminate the project’s actions and raise awareness of the importance of conserving dune ecosystems. • Monitor the evolution of the dunes in order to assess the actions and, where applicable, propose corrective measures.


The project was successful. Its actions have benefited the integral regeneration of the Laida beach, an ecosystem of special ecological importance. Moreover the LIFE work has laid the foundations for the progressive biological recovery of the site over the coming years. Thanks to the scientific work carried out by the LIFE team, precise information has been gathered about the prevailing wind pattern at the beach, the sedimentary nature of the sand and the dynamics of the Urdaibai estuary, which is an important tool to appropriately manage these natural areas. This pioneering experience in the Basque country has provided precise knowledge that can be used to develop similar projects in zones with similar characteristics. Specifically, the surface area of two habitats of Community interest, namely the shifting dunes with embryonic vegetation and coastal shifting dunes with Ammophila arenaria, has significantly increased. The project also managed to exceed its original forecasts – adding another 2.2 ha to the original plans, so that a total of 8.2 ha have been restored. The analysis of the results obtained from the scientific monitoring, carried out by LIFE, (together with other studies on vegetation, dune morphology and estuary dynamics) have enabled the publication of good management guidelines to help ensure future conservation of the area. The biological regeneration accomplished by means of bioengineering techniques and favoured by the protective perimeter fencing, which was erected over the course of the project, has also provided excellent results and has led to very quick natural vegetation colonization. Finally, thanks to the project’s successful awareness-raising and educational activities, a good balance appears to have has been achieved between the demands of dune regeneration and the intensive use of the beach. Interestingly, there have also been some economic benefits, as the increased publicity from the dissemination actions has boosted visitor numbers and led to an increase in sales for the shops and hotels of the area. The main actions were as follows: 1. Establishing dune belts This involved placing sand trappers, (dry willow branches or wicker) in perpendicular lines facing into the prevailing wind. These barriers helped to trap the sand to enable it to build up over time. 2. Recolonising the dune-system Once a sufficient volume of fine sand had been built up, sand trapping species were then planted. Specifically, European beach-grass (Ammophila arenaria) and sand couch (Elymus farctus) were planted, which are typical of costal dune environments. 3. Controlling public use There is great tourist pressure on Laida beach mainly due to its use as a sandy area for leisure and recreational purposes. The deterioration of the dune system by the beach users was one of the main threats facing this project. In order to ensure the recovery of the dune, a perimeter enclosure was erected and notices regulating public access were posted. 4. Awareness and dissemination High emphasis was placed on informing and raising awareness among the beach users and the general public about the importance of preserving these vulnerable ecosystems and the ensuing environmental and social benefits. To this end, environmental educational material was published by the project team. This was widely distributed, alongside specific information/publicity material, which was placed on the beach. 5. Monitoring the evaluation of the dunes Various monitoring studies on the geological and biological aspects were conducted. Some of the tools used to perform this monitoring were aerial photos and topographic surveys of the beach, which were used to establish the dynamics and evolution of the dunes being regenerated.


Environmental issues addressed:


Habitats - Coastal


coastal area‚  restoration measure‚  endangered species‚  protected area

Target Habitat types

  • 2110 - Embryonic shifting dunes
  • 2120 - Shifting dunes along the shoreline with Ammophila arenaria ("white dunes")

Natura 2000 sites

Not applicable



Coordinator Departamento de Medio Ambiente y Ordenación del Territorio del Gobierno Vasco
Type of organisation Regional authority
Description The beneficiary is part of the Department of the Environment and Land Planning of the Basque government, specifically in charge of the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve.
Partners None


Project reference LIFE04 NAT/ES/000031
Duration 01-MAY-2004 to 30-APR -2007
Total budget 522,568.00 €
EU contribution 261,284.00 €
Project location País Vasco(España)


Read more:

Leaflet "Laidako Dunak eta hondartza berreskuratzea. Recup ...
Project web site Beneficiary's official website (Euskara, ES, EN, FR, DE)
Project web site Project's website (Euskera, ES, EN, FR)
Project web site Beneficiary's website (Euskara, ES)
Publication: Layman report Layman report (ES/EN)
Publication: Research findings "Seguimiento morfodinámico de la desembocadura del ...
Publication: Research findings "Seguimiento de la colonización biológica de la du ...
Publication: Research findings "Seguimiento y evaluación sedimentológica del proy ...
Publication: Research findings "Seguimiento de hábitats singulares y de flora aló ...


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version