The plants and animals that live in dune environments are especially adapted to cope with their constantly changing and often severe environmental conditions. They must be salt tolerant, able to exist with tides and sand movement, changing fresh ground-water levels, sun and wind exposure - not to mention people and predators.

Foredune vegetation

Foredune vegetation plays an important role in natural beach and dune dynamics and in beach and dune values. In particular, natural dune repair after storms is critically dependent on the presence of appropriate sand trapping vegetation on the seaward face of the dune. In New Zealand, the key native sand binding species on the seaward dune face are spinifex and pingao.

While many exotic species have been used to stabilise dunes such as marram grass (Ammophila arenaria), ice plant (Carpobrotus edulis), and kikuyu grass (Pennisetum clandestinum), experience has shown that these species are not as effective as spinifex and pingao in repairing storm-damaged frontal dunes.

Spinifex growing down a storm erosion scarp. Photo: J. BarranWith a good cover of spinifex and pingao on the seaward dune face, natural dune repair between storms will be more effective. 

Substantial effort by the Coastal Restoration Trust and partner organisations has gone into collecting, propagating and establishing our native sand binding species spinifex and pingao so they can be restored back to beaches. In many parts of the country, there are restoration programmes to mange this foredune zone. We are now looking to both maintain this zone and develop restoration methods for backdune ecosystems.

Backdune vegetation

Ship Creek South Westland has some of the best remaining backdune plant communities in NZ. Photo: D. BerginThere are very few remaining sites in New Zealand that have a good natural range of coastal backdune vegetation. Backdune areas have been modified to the extent many are now car parks, grass reserves and productive landscapes such as farms and pine forests. The Coastal Restoration Trust is currently undertaking a three year backdune project to review and develop methods to restore backdune ecosystems.

Dune weeds

This section is currently being developed and will provide information on identifying and controlling priority weeds in dune systems as well as case studies on how restoration groups have tackled weed issues. If you need information about weeds now - go to

Native animals

A separate page tells you all about coastal lizards of New Zealand.

This section is currently still being developed and will provide information on dune fauna such as insects and birds.

Pest animals

This section is currently being developed and will provide information on which animal pests to look out for in coastal dune areas. It will also provide case studies on how different groups have managed pest animals.