Helping Sefton Coast’s threatened sand dune wildlife

We are delighted to announce that the ‘Gems in the Dunes’ project has been awarded funding, as part of the successful ‘Back from the Brink’ programme led by a consortium of seven wildlife charities and Natural England, and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Gems in the Dunes will deliver improvements for Sefton Coast’s specialist wildlife, along with new opportunities for people to get involved.

Sand dunes are an important habitat for reptiles and amphibians, supporting both widespread and rare species. The Sefton Coast sand dunes, which are England’s largest undeveloped dune system spanning the area between Southport and Liverpool, are particularly special. The habitats on these dunes mean that it is an especially important refuge for certain plants and animals.

This area is the northern outpost of one of our rarest reptiles, the sand lizard, and is also home to a substantial proportion of the nationally scarce natterjack toad. Rare plants, mosses and invertebrates - including the northern dune tiger beetle, petalwort, bee orchid and round-leaved wintergreen - are found on the Sefton Coast, and all of these species need certain conditions to thrive.

Sadly, these rare species, along with the many others that depend on this fragile ecosystem for their continued survival, are being affected by changes to the dune system. These changes include invasive species incursions from fast growing shrubs such as Japanese rose, over-fixation of dunes, and deterioration of specific habitat features such as bare sand.

Gems in the Dunes aims to drive improvements in status for these special sand dune species, and to engage local communities in their conservation. The project will help partners by providing a common framework for species recovery, setting targets for habitat management, training volunteers, and providing outreach opportunities for local communities to learn about and assist with conserving our target species.

We are delighted to be working with a range of project partners, including Natural England, Sefton Council, North Merseyside Amphibian and Reptile Group, Buglife and Plantlife. We are especially grateful to Sefton Council for hosting our project.

Gems in the Dunes is part of the nationwide Back from the Brink programme. This is one of the most ambitious conservation projects of its kind, aiming to save 20 species facing extinction and improving the fortunes of a further 200 species undergoing declines. Back from the Brink is the first nationwide coordinated effort to bring a wide range of leading charities and conservation bodies together to save threatened species. Natural England, the government’s wildlife advisory body, is working in partnership with Amphibian and Reptile Trust, Bat Conservation Trust, Buglife, Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Butterfly Conservation, Plantlife and RSPB to pool expertise, develop new ways of working and inspire people across the country to discover, value and act for threatened animals, plants and fungi.

Back from the Brink will address the needs of threatened species in 150 key habitats and landscapes across England from the Yorkshire Dales to Cornwall. Back from the Brink will focus on saving some very rare and elusive species from extinction, including the shrill carder bee, chequered skipper butterfly, ladybird spider and Northern dune tiger beetle.

ARC is delighted to be part of this exciting partnership, and will be running Gems in the Dunes as one of seven landscape-scale projects in Back from the Brink. ARC will also contribute specialist input to other parts of Back from the Brink, for example to help conserve the adder – England’s most rapidly declining snake - as part of the Rockingham Forest project.

The Heritage Lottery Fund is providing £4.6 million towards the Back from the Brink programme.

Gems in the Dunes will be starting in July 2017, and ARC will shortly be recruiting staff to run the project. We will update this page with more information when the project starts, including how you can get involved, as there will be lots of potential for volunteers. In the meantime, you can register your interest by emailing