In the Netherlands the total active inland drift-sand area has been declining rapidly during the last 50 years. To preserve the inland drift sands, it is necessary to understand its origin and development and the role of human activity in this semi-natural ecotype. The objective of this literature review is to describe the development of the drift-sand ecotopes, to explain the rapid decline of the active drift sands, and to develop a management strategy for the remaining active drift sands. Inland drift-sand landscapes are relatively young landscapes of Holocene age. They often occur as oval-shaped cells with a length of 1.5 to over 6 km in the direction of the prevailing wind. These cells presumably represent reactivated deposits of Younger Cover Sands. Large-scale erosion events in combination with human activity suppressed the development of vegetation. After the change in land use in the first half of the 20th century in which most of the drift sands were re-afforested, the vegetation succession started to show a progressive development. In this stage inland drift-sand ecotopes developed in most of the remaining drift sands with all forms of the typical succession stages from bare sand to forest. The rate at which this development took place mainly depended on the geomorphological development stage of the area, the area size and human activity. Since the 1960s the increased nitrogen deposition has accelerated the vegetation succession, not only resulting in a further decline of the drift sands, but also in a loss of the fragile balance between the different ecotopes and loss of its typical habitants like the Tree Grayling and Tawny Pipit. Most drift-sand vegetation and fauna need the presence of bare sand nearby and a certain level of erosion activity to survive. To preserve the drift-sand ecotype, it is therefore recommended to keep the area affected by erosion sufficiently large (process management). In the meantime one should also `maintain' or increase the wind force in the drift-sand area by suppressing the growth of high vegetation and removing trees, which form a wind barrier. In areas which are less suitable for reactivation, one could restore the mosaic vegetation by removing the vegetation on a limited scale (pattern management). More research is needed to develop a more balanced management strategy and to develop a management tool for the managers of inland drift sands. Also the role of the increased nitrogen deposition in the regeneration process needs further investigation in order to find an effective way to suppress its effect. The development of management strategies for the Dutch inland drift sands might be of great value to drift-sand areas in Western Europe where nature conservationists start to show more interest in the restoration of former drift-sand areas.
- dune area