Sand dune - Country Report, Norway

From Coastal Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search

This article on the sand dunes of Norway, is a revised country report from 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 the distribution of 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: Original text with minor revisions 2007; additional information Bird (World’s Coasts: Online). Author: J Patrick Doody,


Coastal sand dunes in Norway are generally scattered and small in comparison to dunes further south. Two detailed studies of the shorelines of: Finnmark (Elven & Johanson 1983) [3]and Troms (Fjelland et al. 1983)[4] provided data for the original inventory. Less information is available for the rest of the coastline, though Lundberg (original EUCC contact) describes the sand dunes in southwest Norway (Lundberg 1987)[5]. Sand dunes also feature in the more recent description see “Dry coastal ecosystems for Central and Southern Norway” (Lundberg 1993)[6]. The total area of dune is approximately 2,000ha according to the Council of Europe.

Distribution and type of dune

The rocky nature of much of the coastline of Norway does not create favourable conditions for the development of sand dunes, thus they occur only locally. However, there are a relatively large number of small sites, particularly along the indented northern coast, which are associated with embayments. The two main sand dune types are “bay dunes”, which may develop into small “hindshore” systems on the outer coast, though there is little information on size available for the inventory.

Glacial moraines reworked by the sea provide the material for the development of the dunes. The sand is blown on-shore, and dunes become colonised by vegetation in the normal way. Most of the dunes are prograding and only a few show erosional features. The dunes tend to have a high content of calcium carbonate and consequently the soil pH is relatively high.

In the south-west, waves have sorted the Lista Stage moraine (Klemsdal 1969)[7]; see also Høiland (1978)[8] and accumulated sand on the beaches of Jæren, south from Revtangen. Behind the sandy beach of Revesanden is a zone of sand dunes, the highest reaching 15m above sea level. They have low dunes with grasses and willows. The low dunes are the result of aeolian transport and accumulation of silt and clay. They are extensively levelled for agricultural purposes. Behind them are low beach ridges, less than 10m above sea level. Sandy beaches occur on Jæren at Skarasanden, Bore, Nærland, Brusand, and on Lista at Kviljo. There are also long sandy beaches on Vigra, an island on the Møre coast, and on Andøya. Many small sandy pocket beaches occur along indented rocky coasts. Gravelly beach ridges back some sandy beaches; others have dune fields (Klemsdal 1969).


Most of the sand dunes described appear to have a sequence of vegetation types, which includes the more important successional communities from strandline (driftwalls) to scrub. The vegetation of Lista and Jaeren, for example, includes the following main types: Driftwalls; embryo dunes; mobile dunes; fixed dunes; dune slacks and dune lakes, eroded dunes and dune heath (Lundberg 1993, pages 11-117).

There appears to be an important geographical divide in species composition between the north and south of the country. In addition, in the past grazing animals were pastured on many of them and this had a profound influence on the type of vegetation, which developed. In particular, it helped to create species-rich calcareous dune grassland. A brief description of each of the main successional vegetation types follows.


A few higher plants dominate these communities, prominent amongst which are several species of Atriplex. Cakile maritima is a frequent component in the south. It is replaced by Cakile arctica and Honckenya peploides in the north. Foredune. The most frequently encountered species in the south is Elytrigia juncea ssp. boreali-atlantica.

Yellow dune

Ammophila arenaria and Leymus arenarius are the main dune building species. In the southwest, they may occur together, however Ammophila is absent north of Hustad.

Dune grassland

Typically under the influence of grazing by domestic stock, species rich dune grasslands develop. These include a wide variety of plants with a number of rare species. Where erosion takes place in the south Corynephorus canescens may become dominant, in the north Carex maritima.

Dune slack

Dune slacks are rare since the erosional processes that favour their development are restricted. Where they do occur, Salix repens is an important component. In the north, Juncus balticus is a rare but significant species.

Dune heath

Because of the calcareous nature of most of the dunes, dune heath rarely develops. However, on Lista, leaching of some of the older dunes has resulted in communities with Empetrum nigrum and Calluna vulgaris.


There is little information but there are records of Quercus robur and Corylus avellana from Karmøy.

Imporatant sites

The list of dune sites given opposite and shown in the Figure includes those, which have been identified as having a “very high conservation value (++++)” in the studies for Finnmark and Troms.

In southwest Norway only Jærstrendene (Jærstrendene landscape map 1977) and Lista have been included, although taken together the small dunes described for Karmøy (Lundberg 1987) could justify inclusion.

Figure: Map of sand dune distribution and important sites in Norway. Copyright: J Pat Doody


1. Kvalnes-Komagvær (Not Known)

2. Hamningberg-Sandfjorden (Not Known)

3. Kinnarodd-Sandfjorden (Not Known)

4. Ingøya:Eidnesbukta (Not Known)

5. Sørøya:Sørsandfjorden (Not Known)

6. Torsken:Sandvika (Not Known)

7. Jærstrendene (Protected Landscape)

8. Lista (Ramsar Wetland Reserve)

Lista (Site 8) is a large wetland site (724ha) which includes sand dunes and sandy beaches (c 70ha). These host several typical plant species like Eryngium maritimum and Ammophila arenaria. Examples of nationally rare species and other typical plants of the area are Corynephorus canescens, Ammophila arenaria, Eryngium maritimum, Crambe maritima, Carex diandra and Gentiana pneumonanthe. Ilex aquifolium and Hedera helix reflect the mild winter climate of the area.

No further information has been gleaned on the status and location of other important site, but see above for the data collected from the Ramsar web site, described in the introduction: Bliksvær; Haroya Wetlands System; Jæren wetland system; Karlsøyvær. See e g. Lista Wetlands System Ramsar Site 804;(WI Site 3NO017), A Directory of Wetlands of International Importance [1]


Despite the relatively low population density in Norway, sand dunes have suffered considerable destruction because of human activity. In the study of the shorelines of Troms, of 131 localities visited, over 40% appeared to have been destroyed or severely affected by human activity. Only 12% remain more or less undisturbed. At one site (Karmøy), there is recognition of conflict between recreational activity and nature conservation (Lundberg 1984)[9]. In addition to this direct damage, the change in management practice away from pastoral uses is resulting in the growth of coarser vegetation and scrub. In Great Britain, this has lead to a reduction in the conservation interest of a number of sites as the species rich grassland is overgrown. The cessation of grazing and mowing at Karmøy has resulted in the growth of trees and shrubs and the succession is part of a long-term process (Lundberg 1993)[10].

Original contact: Anders Lundberg, Dept. of Geography, University of Bergen, Fosswinckelsgt. 6 5007 Bergen, NORWAY, now Professor and Head of the Department of Geography,

Additional information

Ecosystems of the World 2A Dry Coastal Ecosystems, Polar regions and Europe (Lundberg 1993)

There is a State of the Norwegian Environment Report [2], which provides maps of Protected Areas including Nature Reserves. You can zoom in to a particular location, though no detailed information on the habitats appears to be available.


  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. Elven, R. & Johanson, V., 1983. Havstrand: Finnmark. Flora, vegetasjon og botanisske verneverdier-Miljoverndep, Rapp. T-541, 1-357.
  4. Fjelland, M. Elven, R. & Johanson, V., 1983. Havstrand: Troms. Botaniske verneverdier-Miljoverndep. Rapp. T-551, 1-291.
  5. Lundberg, A., 1987. Sand dune vegetation on Karmøy, S. W. Norway. Nord. J. Botany, 7, 453-477.
  6. Lundberg, A. (& Losvik, M.C.), 1993. Dry coastal ecosystems of central and southern Norway. In: Dry Coastal Ecosystems. 2A. Polar Regions and Europe, ed., E. Van der Maarel, Elsevier, Amsterdam, 119-127.
  7. Klemsdal, T., 1969. Eolian forms in parts of Norway. Norsk Geografisker Tidsskrift, 23, 49-66.
  8. Høiland, K., 1978. Sand dune vegetation of Lista, S. W. Norway. Norw. J. Botany, 25, 23-45.
  9. Lundberg, A., 1984. A controversy between recreation and ecosystem protection in the sand dune areas on Karmøy, South western Norway. GeoJournal, 8/2, 147-157.
  10. Lundberg, A., 1993. Dry coastal ecosystems of Central and South Norway. In: Ecosystems of the World 2A Dry Coastal Ecosystems, Polar regions and Europe, ed., van der Maarel, Elsivier, 109-123.

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, Norway. Available from,_Norway [accessed on 13-07-2024]