Atlantic dune woodland: Habitat 2180:

This is defined as:

Wooded dunes of the Atlantic, Continental and Boreal region - Proposed new name: "Coastal dunes with near-natural woodland") is defined in the EU as:

"Natural or semi-natural forests (long established) of the Atlantic, Continental and Boreal region coastal dunes with a well developed woodland structure and an assemblage of characteristic woodland species. It corresponds to oak groves and beech-oak groves with birch (Quercion robori-petraeae) on acid soils, as well as forests of the Quercetalia pubescenti-petraeae order. Pioneer stages are open forests with Betula spp. and Crataegus monogyna, mixed forests with Fraxinus excelsior, Quercus robur, Ulmus minor and Acer pseudoplatanus or, in wet dune slacks, pioneer forests with Salix alba which develop into humid mixed forests or marsh forests. On southern Atlantic coasts, it mainly corresponds to mixed Pinus pinaster-Quercus ilex forests, forests of Quercus suber and Quercus robur or forest stage with Quercus robur or Quercus pubescens. On Baltic coasts also pioneer forests of Alnus spp. or Pinus sylvestris. Plant species are highly varied and depend on local site conditions. The corresponding categories include German classification: "430804 Buchenbuschwald (auf Ostseedünen)", "430801 Traubeneichen- Hainbuchenwald (küstennah, gischtbeeinflußt, F02)", "43080501 Eichen-Trockenwald lalkarmer Standorte (küstennah, gischtbeeinflußt, F02)", "440202 trockener Sandkiefernwald (küstennah, gischtbeeinflußt, F02)". This habitat includes semi-natural forests with typical undergrowth, spontaneously developed from old plantations. These forests are generally associated with dune scrubs (pre-forest stages-16.25), dune moors, grey dunes (16.22) and wet dune slacks (16.3)."

"The criterion for the delimitation of this habitat type is the presence of semi-natural deciduous (North Sea and Baltic) or mixed deciduous woodland (Baltic) on coastal dunes. Pine forests without a near-natural understory (e.g. for resin production) are excluded."

In the UK, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) considers that there are no substantive examples of this habitat at the present time in the UK. The UK Sand Dune BAP recognises that it may formerly have been present and proposes the selection of 5 sites for the experimental creation of Atlantic Dune Woodland.

Atlantic dune woodland at Newborough:

With regard to Newborough Forest, the key element of the definition is "Natural or semi-natural forests (long established)...with a well developed woodland structure and an assemblage of characteristic woodland species". Newborough Forest is presently none of these things. It is not natural or semi-natural (the latter being a habitat modified from its original state by human intervention but still comprising predominently native species which are naturally derived and not planted) having been planted mostly less than 50 years ago rather than derived from wildwood or by natural colonisation. It is very largely comprised of exotic (non-native) tree species. It has a poor woodland structure, lacking a diversity of age classes, under-storey or ground layer. Many of the plant species within Newborough forest are relicts from the earlier dune flora. Only the landward portions are beginning to acquire common woodland plants by (mostly) natural colonisation, while some areas are also acquiring an interesting fungus flora. It has none of the indicators of Ancient woodland.

Atlantic Dune Woodland could potentially develop at Newborough in time. The main native trees would probably be birch and oak as in many continental examples. Sycamore would fit in well ecologically, but treatment depends on whether it is accepted as an "honorary native" (given its relatively recent introduction to GB and its limited faunal association). Dune slacks would probably be willow dominated; alder would perhaps be less abundant because of less effective dispersal in this sort of terrain. Ash might occur where water levels are stable and an understorey of hazel, elder, hawthorn etc., could be expected. Due to the varied topography of the terrain there are likely to be quite sudden spatial variation, e.g. from oak/birch to willow dominance at edges of slacks so overall there could be quite a tight mosaic of types. Corsican and lodgepole pines would be likely to remain the overlying structure of the forest for a considerable period, with possibly some increase in Scots pine in landward areas.

Theoretically, a mature dune woodland could be quite open and heterogenous if the substrate is unstable. Sand blow-outs could start beneath the root plates of wind-thrown trees and it is possible that waves of undercutting would move through the woodland providing open space and new regeneration sites. As such, there are analogies with alluvial woodlands which are progressively under-cut by shifting river channels. Grazing animals at low density within the forest would increase the variety of disturbance, create niches for tree seedling regeneration and perhaps allow patches of open dune vegetation to co-exist sporadically within a wooded matrix.