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There are very few dune systems left on the Basque coast, though they used to be found wherever there was a beach. Over the past 200 years they have been reduced to a fraction of their former extension, and this has destabilised areas of beach and shoreline where unique species now cling precariously to survival. The dunes of Laida and Laga are the only ones that have ever existed within the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve. The Laida dunes survived up to the 1950’s, when they were wiped out by a major storm. Human pressure on the area (walking, sand removal, vehicles, etc.) increased from the 1960’s onwards, preventing dune plants from establishing themselves on the beach and thus increasing erosion and sand loss due to the action of wind and sea. One of the priority goals of the Reserve is to regenerate and conserve its natural ecosystems.

At Laida social interests - preserving the beach for responsible recreational use - combine with environmental interests in restoring an ecosystem that vanished 50 years ago. The area of the estuary containing the Laida dunes is part of Location of EU Interest ES2130007 (Urdaibai Shoreline & Marshes) and Special Protection Area for Birds ES0000144 (Urdaibai River Estuary). The 13.3 hectares of dunes in Urdaibai are the largest area on the Basque coastline, accounting for 41.3% of the total of 32.2 hectares of dunes classed as Locations of EU Interest in the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country within the Natura 2000 network. It is thus a very rare type of ecosystem that has suffered damage and is declining on the Basque coastline. The project to regenerate the dunes at Laida receives funding under the European Commission’s LIFE-Nature programme.

Regeneration of the dune ecosystem of Laida beach

[ LIFE / NATURE / 000031 / ES ]

(Urdaibai)