The importance of sand dunes
Sand dunes remind us of formations created in desert environments. In Greece, sand dunes are commonly found on the shorelines of many beaches. A dune is defined as a hill of sand with a specific geoform, built by either wind or water flow.
Even though humans cannot detect their importance (as if they were shaped by coincidence), dunes provide habitat for resilient plants and animals. They also serve as protective buffers to the effects of flooding and protect Earth's water table from seawater. Sea turtles use lower dunes to nest and lay out their eggs; this way, sea turtles make their nesting areas in soft and warm environments like sand dunes and on the other hand the vegetation of the dune is reinforced by the nutrition of the eggs. The presence of these animals and those structures contribute towards the health of the beach. Sea turtles and dunes are part of the same ecosystem; if these animals were extinct, dunes would be vanished and as a result the beach ecosystem would be affected.
Dunes have been threatened by the rise of tourism in Greek islands; as a result, we find these only in remote, isolated communities. For instance, in Crete there is a lot of pressure for development as it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Mediterranean.
Nonetheless it's one of the 17 places in the country where coastal dunes with different Cedrus species are found; ecosystems like the latter are defined as priority ecosystems by the EU hence it is necessary to take measures in order to conserve them (council directive 92/43/EE).
Under the right circumstances – by educating the public of these ecosystems – certain precautions could be taken to prevent dune damages. ARCHELON will be playing a key role through its field program this summer in Crete, for these ecosystems.
Crete Program Coordinator
(translation: Ermis T. Karagkounis)