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Sand dunes are
common features of shoreline environments. Sand dunes provide habitat for
highly specialized plants and animals,
including rare and endangered species. They can protect beaches
from erosion and re-stabilise eroded beaches. Dunes are threatened by human
activity, both intentional and unintentional. Coastal dunes are highly
sensitive to human activity, for example, in the last 30 years, mainly because
of tourism, nearly 75% of the Mediterranean’s coastal dunes have been damaged
or destroyed1.
Smaller impacts of human activity involve trampling, the construction of
footpaths and off road vehicle tracks. More significant human impacts on sand
dunes are the construction of roads, housing and water works along the coast. Footpath
erosion is caused by the extensive trampling of vegetation and soil. The
process of path erosion can be split into four main steps: there is no
footpath. There is extensive vegetation and the roots help bind soil particles
together; foot traffic compresses the soil, causing the soil particles to be
tighter together and go downward, creating a shallow gulley on the ground. This
has two effects. It allows less rain to be absorbed into the ground, because
the soil is tight, and it causes the rain to follow the path because the path
is the lowest point. Soil particles wash away, more vegetation dies, less roots
now exist and it becomes easier for even more soil to wash away; all vegetation
in the path has died. A deeper gulley forms, exposing rocks and more dirt. A
deeper gulley leads to more water following the path, worsening the process; deepening
continues. At this point, the exposed rocks begin to make the path more
treacherous. This leads to people avoiding the middle of the path and walking
along the edges, where there is still vegetation. This process continues on the
edge of the paths, and unless action is taken, the path becomes deeper and
wider

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