2. Dunes, beaches and the sea

Plate 1 Typical Highland beach-dune system, Strathy

Plate 1: Typical Highland beach-dune system, Strathy.

Dunes are a dynamic, but fragile coastal landform. The interactions between dunes and beaches lie at the heart of this manual. The changes brought about by the natural processes of winds, waves and tides are rarely gradual or predictable. Rather they are episodic, with periods of little or no change followed by times of intense activity, most obviously during storms when dunes may be eroded rapidly, their seaward faces receding many metres in a few days. Often these events go unnoticed by local residents or land-owners, with subsequent re-building of the dunes by wind action in the following weeks and months. However, when damage occurs with little or no natural restoration of the dunes over a period of several years, then concern arises, especially if there are important assets at risk to the landward (Plate 2). It is usually as a result of such events that intervention works are undertaken, sometimes later proving to be unnecessary or damaging to the natural beach/ dune system.

Plate 2 Sustained coastal erosion has affected Montrose golf course in recent years

Plate 2 Sustained coastal erosion has affected Montrose golf course in recent years.