Braunton Burrows
UK Biosphere Reserve in Focus

Car Park at Braunton Burrows with the dune system in the background

Braunton Burrows is the largest sand dune system in the UK. It hosts an extraordinarily diverse plant community, with over 400 recorded species of vascular plants. This in turn means that there are also a great variety of associated invertebrate species. Its uniqueness and biodiversity is recognised in its designation as both a National Nature Reserve and as a UNESCO biosphere reserve. Braunton Burrows is located in the South West of England, in North Devon, to the west of the town of Barnstaple (map).
Dunes and Slacks The sand dunes are stabilized and held in place by the root systems of a variety of creeping plants. Marram Grass, in particular, is one of the pioneer species which colonize and stabilize the sand hills piled up by the wind. 

The valleys between the dunes, which are known as slacks, are wet and marshy in the winter and host a variety of marsh herbs and low creeping shrubs.

Rabbit Burrows Its name is derived from the large numbers of rabbit burrows to be found in the area. The many rabbits have a profound effect on the vegetation of the dunes through their grazing, in many places creating a short, cropped turf of herbs and grasses.
Many of the plants are very small! Because of the continual cropping by the rabbits, many of the plants are short and stunted and have an entirely different growth form to their normal one.

A number of the plants are very small and a hand lens is essential to appreciate them!




Biosphere Reserve Contents