Sand dune - Country Report, Cyprus

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This article on the sand dunes of Cyprus, is a new country report and represents an addition to the 'Sand Dune Inventory of Europe' (Doody ed. 1991) [1]. The 1991 inventory was prepared under the umbrella of the European Union for Dune Conservation [EUDC]. The original inventory was presented to the European Coastal Conservation Conference, held in the Netherlands in November 1991. It attempted to provide a description of the sand dune vegetation, sites and conservation issues throughout Europe including Scandinavia, the Atlantic coast and in the Mediterranean.

An overview article on European sand dunes provides links to the other European country reports. These represent chapters from updated individual country reports included in the revised, 2nd Edition of the 'Sand Dune Inventory of Europe' prepared for the International Sand Dune Conference “Changing Perspectives in Coastal Dune Management”, held from the 31st March - 3rd April 2008, in Liverpool, UK (Doody ed. 2008)[2].

Status: New contribution 2008.

Cyprus- Sand Dune Inventory Report

Author: Andreas Ch. Hadjichambis.


The coastal zone of Cyprus is characterised by rich wildlife of prime ecological and scientific value. Along the 772km of the Cyprus coastline, coasts are almost everywhere low and shelving. Sea cliffs of any magnitude are extremely rare. According to its substrate, the shoreline is rocky mainly with pebble beaches (54%) with sandy beaches and many small coves (46%). Sand dunes, salt flats, salt lakes, salt marshes as well as freshwater marshes occur in the Cyprus coastal belt although they are limited to few areas. As far as the sand dune ecosystems are concerned, along the 304 km coastline of Cyprus (free south part), these are confined to 22 sites (Hadjichambis et al., 2003a)[3]. Dunes, at many places, are low and beaches narrow, mostly because of a restricted sand supply due to the dam construction plan of the last 20 years, as well as tourism activities and beach erosion.

Distribution and type of dune

In the coasts of Cyprus, dunes occur locally behind sandy beaches in several bays. Bay sand dunes and barrier island dunes are the main sand dune types recognised in the country. The most extensive dune systems, barrier islands and spits can be found in Akrotiri peninsula were the Kouris and Garyllis rivers have brought much sediment to the sea and contributed to the creation of one of the most important dune systems in Cyprus. The dunes of Akrotiri include several dune sites classified because of their structure and function as well as the different status they have for nature conservation, threat and management. They consist of beaches, foredunes, mobile and stabilised dunes, which enclose a major wetland. Spit dunes associated with major salt marshes, barrier island dunes in north eastern site and Bay sand dune in other areas are present in Akrotiri peninsula.

Akamas peninsula, an area proposed as a national park, is characterised by diminished anthropogenic impacts resulting in conserved sand dune sites such as Lara’s peninsulas (north and south) as well as Toxevtra sand dunes.

Finally, only a few small dunes areas are climbing dunes on the slopes of some cliffs situated on the western parts of Akrotiri peninsula (Episkopi bay) and North Lara peninsula dune site.


Sand dunes of Cyprus are places of economic, recreational and tourist activities. There are roads and paths, while sometimes are also subject to grazing. As a result, there are places where the natural dune vegetation may be partially or completely changed. These are the cases where plant taxa, which belong to synanthropic vegetation, are present. However, a typical vegetation succession in Cyprus’ sand dunes includes the following:


The strandline includes usually ephemeral, salt resistant vegetation, constituted from limited number of species such as Cakile maritima and Salsola kali. It corresponds to the Class CAKILETEA MARITIMAE.


Embryonic dunes and foredunes have a cover with communities characterized by Elymus farctus but often and other species, such as Eryngium maritimum, Otanthus maritimus, Zygophyllum album and species of Limonium genus. Generally, species diversity in foredunes is limited.

Yellow dune

In the sand dunes of Cyprus, the main species continues to be (like foredunes) Elymus farctus, which can resist the fast burying from the added sand. Ammophila arenaria in Cyprus is very rare confined only in one site (Hadjichambis, 2005)[4]. In yellow dunes, an important percentage is characterised by the absence of vegetation.

Dune grassland

In this vegetation zone are included dune meadows, which belong to dunes with Malcolmietalia (habitat 2230) and include many small annual plants and abundant ephemeral plants that bloom in spring. In the dune grasslands of Cyprus there are also dunes with Brachypodietalia and annuals (habitat 2240), which are thermo-mediterranean dry meadows. In Cyprus’ environmental conditions, grey dunes are characterised by the presence of low thermo-mediterranean sclerophyllous dune scrub (habitat 2260) in which thorny, silvery in colour, subspherical, pillow-shaped species, that are often dominated by Thymus capitatus, are included. It corresponds to the Class CISTO-MICROMERIETEA JULIANAE. It is worth noticing that in the case of Cyprus this low scrub perhaps fits better in the woodland category (low and tall shrublands). These dunes are characterised by the presence of Helichrysum conglobatum, Phagnalon rupestre, Helianthemum stipulatum, Crucianella maritima, Ononis spp. etc.


Dune Juniper thickets mainly consist of Juniperus phoenicea (habitat 2250*) occur in valleys and slopes of stabilised dunes which correspond to the Class QUERCETEA ILICIS. Arborised thickets of dunes (habitat 2260) with communities that belong to the order Pistacio lentisci-Rhamnetalia alaterni occur in Cyprus dunes. This vegetation mainly consists of Rhamnus oleoides, Pistacia lentiscus, Olea europaea var. sylvestris, Ceratonia siliqua and other species. Dunes with pines, Pinus brutia and Pinus halepensis (Hadjichambis, 2005) occur rarely in the sand dune ecosystems of Cyprus. They occur in stabilised dunes, towards the rear of the zonation reported. In some cases, they also occur at a small distance from the coast. In most places in which these communities occur, pines of different ages occur, as well as natural regeneration.

Dune slacks

These are the rarest habitat type in Cyprus. They occur in humid depressions between dunes (habitat 2190). This vegetation mainly consists of Schoenus nigricans, Plantago maritima subsp. crassifolia, Linum strictum and other species.

Important sites

The list of sites given below includes the most important areas of coastal dunes in Cyprus according to their ecological status. The estimated size includes other habitats as well.

Table of important sites

The map shows the Botanical divisions of Cyprus (I: Akamas peninsula, II: Troodos range, III: The south area around Limassol, IV: Larnaca area, V: The east part of Central plain, VI: The west part of Central plain, VII: The northern slopes and peaks of Pentadactylos, VIII: Karpasia peninsula).

Figure: Numbered sand dune sites included in the Figure above


Many dune sites of Cyprus are remnants of greater dune areas, which have declined due to significant pressures and impacts affecting them during the last 30 years, mainly tourism. Many dune areas have also been afforested with Acacia saligna (Labill.) Wendl. fil. or Eucalyptus spp. destroying most of the natural vegetation (Hadjichambis and Della, 2007)[5].

Coastal sand dunes are among the most vulnerable habitats of Cyprus (Hadjichambis, et al. 2004))[6], however, they are subject to high-intensity recreational and other uses. Fourteen types of anthropogenic pressures and impacts take place on the sand dune ecosystems of Cyprus. The majority of these are internal or local activities influencing each site (e.g. trampling, driving and grazing). Although others are external, occurring at some distance from the dune site, they can affect the structure and function of the systems by reducing the delivery of sediment e.g. by dam construction (Hadjichambis et al., 2003b)[7]. In a very small area of few square Kilometres on the south coast, where sand dune ecosystems exist, about 20% of the national flora including many endemic, rare, threatened and protected elements exists. Their high species diversity can significantly add to the conservation value of the ecosystems. The conservation and management of the sand dune ecosystems of Cyprus continue to be required.

Adequate and strict management measures are needed for sand dune ecosystems, which seem to have the potential for recovery. This will only occur if human impacts diminish. For the most degraded sand dunes sites, there is a need for restoration and improvement of their ecological quality.

Contact: Dr. Andreas Ch. Hadjichambis, Cyprus Centre for Environmental Research and Education (CY.C.E.R.E. - KYKPEE), E-mail:, Cyprus.


  1. Doody, J.P., ed., 1991. Sand Dune Inventory of Europe. Peterborough, Joint Nature Conservation Committee/European Union for Coastal Conservation.
  2. Doody, J.P., ed. 2008. Sand Dune Inventory of Europe, 2nd Edition. National Coastal Consultants and EUCC - The Coastal Union, in association with the IGU Coastal Commission.
  3. Hadjichambis, A.Ch., Paraskeva-Hadjichambi D., Della, A., Dimopoulos P. & Georghiou K., 2003a. Vulnerable coastal habitats of Cyprus. Hellenic Society for Biological Sciences, Proceedings of 25th Annual Conference, Mytilene, May, 2003, 352-353.
  4. Hadjichambis A. Ch., 2005. Conservation Biology of the threatened coastal habitats of Cyprus: Flora, Vegetation, Ecology and Management. Ph.D. Thesis, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Athens, Greece, 548 pp.
  5. Hadjichambis A. Ch. & Della A., 2007. Ecology of Threatened Coastal Ecosystems of Cyprus. Agricultural Research Institute - Research Promotion Foundation, Nicosia, Cyprus, 412pp. (in Greek with English summary and lists)
  6. Hadjichambis A. Ch., Georghiou K., Della A., Dimopoulos P. and Paraskeva-Hadjichambi, D., 2004. Flora of the Sand dune ecosystems of Cyprus. Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Mediterranean Climate Ecosystems (MEDECOS), Rhodes Island, Greece, CD-Rom.
  7. Hadjichambis, A.Ch., Dimopoulos P. & Georghiou K., 2003b. Conservation Biology of threatened coastal sand dune habitats of Cyprus. Hellenic Society for Biological Sciences, Proceedings of 25th Annual Conference, Mytilene, May, 2003, 350-351.

See also

The main author of this article is Doody, Pat
Please note that others may also have edited the contents of this article.

Citation: Doody, Pat (2019): Sand dune - Country Report, Cyprus. Available from,_Cyprus [accessed on 15-07-2024]