General characteristics

Coastal sand dunes, Sand beaches, Machair (85%)

Shingle, Sea cliffs, Islets (1%)

Inland water bodies (Standing water, Running water) (1%)

Heath, Scrub, Maquis and Garrigue, Phygrana (3%)

Improved grassland (5%)

Broad-leaved deciduous woodland (5%)

Habitats that are a primary reason for selection of this site:

Shifting dunes along the shoreline with Ammophila arenaria "white dunes"

This large site in southwest England contains a substantial area of mobile dune vegetation, including representative examples of most of the main variants found in the south-west of the UK.

It forms the core area of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of North Devon.

There are good numbers of characteristic specialist plants typical of this region, such as Portland spurge Euphorbia portlandica, sea spurge Euphorbia paralias and sea-holly Eryngium maritimum. Transitions to dune slack and fixed dune are a prominent feature of this site.

Fixed coastal dunes with herbaceous vegetation "grey dunes"  * Priority feature

Braunton Burrows, is one of the largest dune sites in the UK and is of particular importance because it is virtually intact and still active. There are very extensive areas of species-rich calcareous dune grassland with good examples of a variety of important communities. The short turf areas are extremely rich in herbs and lichens, including a number of nationally rare species. Flowering herbs such as large thyme Thymus pulegioides, common restharrow Ononis repens and common bird’s-foot-trefoil Lotus corniculatus are locally dominant.

Dunes with Salix repens ssp. argentea (Salicion arenariae)

Braunton Burrows is representative of dunes with Salix repens ssp. argentea in southwest England. The habitat is scattered across the site and form part of a complex mosaic of vegetation containing creeping willow, including early and mature successional stages of dune slack vegetation. There are transitional stages between this type and more mature scrub vegetation.

Humid dune slacks

Braunton Burrows has an exceptionally large area of humid dune slack vegetation, representing a significant proportion of the national resource. The slacks have formed in base-rich sand and are rich in species such as marsh pennywort Hydrocotyle vulgaris, marsh helleborine Epipactis palustris and round-leaved wintergreen Pyrola rotundifolia. Vegetation types range from those with almost permanent water to those dominated by scrub. The site contains representative examples of most of the communities of base-rich humid slacks in southwest England, namely those characterised by creeping willow Salix repens ssp. argentea, those with bryophytes or those with Yorkshire-fog Holcus lanatus.

Habitats present as a qualifying feature, but not a primary reason for selection of this site

Mudflats and sandflats not covered by seawater at low tide

Species that are a primary reason for selection of this site

Petalwort  Petalophyllum ralfsii

A large population (around 3000 thalli) of petalwort Petalophyllum ralfsii is recorded from Braunton Burrows, one of two sites selected for this species in southwest England. There are extensive open dune slack habitats of the types required by this species for survival.

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