A poster summarising this project as per March 2017 can be downloaded here. It may be used and reproduced freely, provided it is not changed. A high resolution file can be provided on request.

Final report - March 2018


Over the last three years the Coastal Restoration Trust has been collaborating with a number of research partners developing methods for monitoring dune vegetation and profiles on our sand dunes. The aim was to provide easy-to-use monitoring guidelines for Coast Care groups, landowners and management agencies involved in restoration programmes on coastal dunes.

The project was funded by the Ministry for the Environment’s Community Environment Fund in collaboration with Coast Care and Beach Care groups, iwi and coastal landowners and with support from our research partners. These included Northland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Greater Wellington and Canterbury regional councils, the Christchurch City Council, Timaru District Council, the Department of Conservation, and Te Kohaka o Tuhaitara Trust in North Canterbury.

These monitoring guidelines along with a data management system are about to be launched on our website.

Monitoring guidelines

The basis of the dune monitoring method is the use of transects placed perpendicular to the coast sampling across the range of zones from foredune to landward. Key factors surveyed are vegetation cover, species composition and dune profile.

A proven Rapid-Point sampling method is used involving placement of a sample pole at fixed intervals along the transect tape and recording the uppermost species that intersects with the pole at each point.

A practical method has also been developed to map the contour of the dunes that can be matched to the survey of vegetation cover.

Sampling change in vegetation and dune form across these zones will provide an indication of the vegetation types and species in each zone. Re-measurement of these characteristics using consistent methods will show any changes that are occurring over time.

Managing your data

There is no point in accumulating data unless it is used to provide insights into firstly providing a baseline of what the dune and its vegetation characteristics are, and then with repeat surveys providing a meaningful comparison of change over time, especially if active management is occurring.

The Coastal Restoration Trust in collaboration with Cerulean Design and Development have developed an easy-to-use method for quantifying the vegetation cover and profile of sand dunes that can be undertaken by anyone from coast care groups to management agencies.

The data management system allows users to enter their own data that includes information on the location of their site, GPS locations of permanent landward datum points of each transect, bearing of transects seaward, and then vegetation and dune profile data from point sampling along transects.

Users can manage the entire monitoring operation from setting up dune transects, undertaking the field sampling, entering data into dedicated web-based forms, and viewing results of vegetation cover by species.

Keep an eye out for the launching of this new application that will be freely available on our website.

CEF Back dune restoration monitoring project - March 2017

The Coastal Restoration Trust of New Zealand is developing easy-to-use community-based methods for assessing and monitoring dunes that can be quickly implemented by Coast Care groups, councils and other managing agencies. The project is funded by the Ministry for the Environment’s Community Environment Fund in collaboration with coast care groups, councils and the Department of Conservation.

A survey of sand dunes across the range of zones from foredune to landward establishes a baseline in dune profile, vegetation cover and species composition, and then changes can be monitored over time. This will assist Coast Care groups and agencies in setting priorities for restoration and management of their dunes, and assessing the effectiveness of their interventions.

As zonation on sand dunes typically runs parallel to the sea, sampling vegetation is best undertaken by running transects perpendicular to the coastline. Techniques for setting up and assessing dune vegetation cover and species composition have been developed and are based on an easy-to-use Rapid-Point sampling method along a tape laid across the dune from a landward permanent datum point, seaward to high water mark.

Practical techniques are under development to measure slopes and distances along each transect to map the dune contour using mobile devices.

The Coastal Restoration Trust is developing user-friendly methods for analysis and presentation of data for interpreting vegetation cover and species composition in relation to dune morphology. This will show changes over time and assist in adjusting dune restoration and management priorities where required.

Getting involved

We have already identified and initiated project planning with some Coast Care groups and managing agencies in several regions for setting up and testing methods for monitoring both dune condition and restoration activities. If your group or agency is keen to be involved in this project please contact the Coastal Restoration Trust Administrator (info@coastalrestorationtrust.org.nz) or the Project Manager David Bergin (davidbergin.erl@gmail.com).

July 2016


There has been excellent progress during the last few months of mid-2016 in refining monitoring methods in consultation with community groups, iwi and management agency representatives. Various dune monitoring methods developed to date for characterising dune form and vegetation cover have been evaluated and tested during field-based workshops and demonstrations in Northland and the Bay of Plenty. This has included local community and marae representatives at the Mapere Block; Ahipara, Taipa Beach, Far North; Ruakaka south of Whangarei with Northland Regional Council; and with Papamoa College and Bay of Plenty Regional Council.

Transects from 10-80 m long have been established at each site representative of dune profiles, proximity to sea and vegetation cover from backdune to foredune zones comprising trees and shrubs to sand binding grasses and including both exotic and native flora. Sampling along transects comprises identification of the dominant plant species within a 20 cm diameter hoop at 1 m intervals along each transect demarcated by a tape. Data from each transect has been recorded for analysis for comparison across site.

Papamoa College

In June substantial progress was made with 30 Year 12 students from Papamoa College in collaboration with the Bay of Plenty Coast Care Programme evaluating transect sampling across foredune and backdunes at Papamoa Beach. This including evaluation of hoop sampling ring-size vs point-intercept methods using multiple observers across the 4 transects each approximately 50 m long. Two transect methods compared:

  • Coastal Restoration Trust community based method - point/hoop intercept method comprising five sample sizes - point, 2.5cm, 5cm, 10cm, 20cm.
  • Cover class method transect established by Science Department of Papamoa College - 2 square plots - 1 and 2 meter square (using metal grid) subjective cover methods with the transect method developed as part of this project along 4 transects

Dune profiling was also undertaken. A comprehensive monitoring guide with brief background, customised fieldsheets including species identification guide were developed for this student-led project in collaboration with Science HOD and other teaching staff, and project partners Bay of Plenty Regional Council.

Data from the Papamoa College field work is currently being analysed. A comparision of sample hoop sizes at other sites in collatoration with the Waitohu Sand Dune Coastcare Group in the Wellington region is planned for later in the year.

March 2016 - CEF Developing community-based monitoring guidelines for coastal sand dunes

On-site field demonstration of proposed monitoring methods on dunes of Caroline Bay, Timaru with staff from the Timaru District Council. Project partners including councils and Coast Care groups nationwide are involved in evaluating and refining quantitative methods for assessing dune vegetation cover and condition.Background

This project works with community groups, councils and other interest groups to develop a range of scientifically robust and easy-to-use methods to monitor effectiveness of dune restoration and changes in the state of the dune environment over time.

The 3-year project involves several components:

1. Consultation with coastal communities and managing agencies:

  • identifying needs and questions to be addressed by coastal dune monitoring.
  • determining priorities for solutions.
  • assessing issues and practicalities for effective community-based monitoring.

2. Existing monitoring methods:

  • identifying and reviewing the range of dune monitoring work presently conducted nationwide and elsewhere including relevant research.
  • buildinging on recent Envirolink review, evaluate relevant monitoring approaches used in other ecosystems.
  • identifying strengths and weaknesses of existing approaches with participating communities, interest groups and managing agencies.

3. Design and trial practical field-based monitoring methods:

  • In collaboration with communities and agencies the project involves designing and validating a range of methods for monitoring dune condition and state (e.g. dune vegetation communities, indigenous biodiversity, degree of human disturbance, impact of animal browsing, weeds).
  • This includes easy-to-use systematic methods and indicators identifying and helping prioritise areas of degradation, threats and restoration options.
  • Monitoring will comprise trialling and reviewing at a minimum of 30 sites nationwide.

4. Design and development of system(s) for data management:

  • building and/or aligning where possible with existing appropriate data management systems (including NatureWatch) including storage, retrieval, analysis, interpretation with specialist web-based database developers.
  • liaising with coastal communities and agencies for rapid and simple web based system for recoding site and plant measurements, and accessing results.
  • designing datasheets and templates for online and field usage.

5. Technology transfer

  • publish a scientifically robust guide in the form of two articles for the Coastal Restoration Trust Coastal Restoration Handbook aimed at 1) quantifying the current status of dunes, and 2) determining whether restoration programmes are meeting objectives (including data storage, analysis) and make available online on Coastal Restoration Trust and relevant management agency websites.
  • minimum of 6 field based consultative workshops per year setting up and undertaking monitoring using different methods.
  • project progress updates for newsletters and websites for Coastal Restoration Trust, local Coast Care, councils, project partners.

Year 1 progress

  • The Step-Point Method under development and refinement at the transition between the ground cover zone and the shrub zone on a backdune, Cooks Beach, Coromandel.Field-based workshop, consultation and liaison in the development and testing of robust but user-friendly monitoring methods has been undertaken in regions from Northland to south Canterbury. This has included councils, DOC and local coast care and beach care groups in Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Wellington, Christchurch and Timaru.
  • A review of existing monitoring guidelines used in other ecosystems has been completed and information is being used in the development of a dunes monitoring system. These guides include the Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Kit (WETMAK), the Stream Health Monitoring and Assessment Kit (SHMAK), the Estuary Monitoring Toolkit, Mangrove Monitoring Kit, and Forest Monitoring and Assessment Kit (FORMAK).
  • A range of other monitoring methods used at the science and large scale survey level were also reviewed such as the RECCE method for decribing NZ vegetation, natural environment regional monitoring programmes and transect surveys, the NZ carbon monitoring system, and sand dune inventories.
  • For assessing dune condition including vegetation cover, dune profiles, and impacts of users and pest animals, a Step-Point Method has been developed and field tested. This is based on Ian Atkinson’s method he developed for surveying open vegetation communities on volcanic dunes in the central North Island.
  • The dunes version developed and under testing as part of this project involves recording the dominant species at fixed intervals along transects perpendicular to the shore using a 20 cm sampling hoop. The sampling point distance along transects can vary according to the degree of variation and complexity of vegetation cover and the width of the dune sampled.
  • Developing user-friendly methods for measuring dune restoration initiatives including performance of plantings and effectiveness of maintenance of weed growth and pest animal control are under development.
  • The design of an easy-to-use interactive system for data management for Coast Care groups and management agencies has been initiated and progressing this will be a major the focus in the second year of the project.

Easy-to-use methods for monitoring success of planting programmes by Coast Care groups is also under development

How you can become involved?

We have already identified and initiated project planning with some Coast Care groups and managing agencies in several regions for setting up and testing methods for monitoring both dune condition and restoration activities. If your group or agency is keen to be involved in this project please contact the Coastal Restoration Trust Coordinator (info@coastalrestorationtrust.org.nz) or the Project Manager David Bergin (davidbergin.erl@gmail.com).