The site is a SAC selected for the following habitats from Annexe I of Directive 92/43/EEC:
1140 Tidal Mudflats and Sandflats (72,9047)
1210 Annual Vegetation of Drift Lines (0,3694)
1330 Atlantic Salt Meadows (0,2211)
2110 Embryonic Shifting Dunes (1,1272)
2120 Marram Dunes (White Dunes) (9,3699)
*2130 Fixed Dunes (Grey Dunes) (22,654)
2170 Dunes with Creeping Willow (0,1362)
2190 Humid Dune Slacks (0,753)
The area of 2130* at Raven Point is currently 22.65 ha, 0.28% of the total national area for this habitat. In the southern part of the site, the 2130* fixed dunes are part of a set of coastal habitats with intact transitions and are subject to natural processes. Historical developments and natural conditions on the east coast of Ireland have led to a pattern of sand scarcity at many sites, and active accumulation and evidence of sediment availability here are important features. There are very few opportunities to increase fixed dunes (2130*) coverage in Ireland, and these habitats are under pressure at a national level due to the vulnerability of island areas. The dynamism of the island habitats in the southern section of the site makes it particularly suitable for restoration work, as the restored habitats would be under natural coastal influences.
The conifer plantation at Raven Point Nature Reserve is by far the largest dune area in Ireland with forest plantations, occupying approximately 30% of the SAC. The plantation was established in the 1930s and 1950s and is not currently managed as a commercial crop. Many of the trees are now overmature and/or senescent with occasional incidents caused by wind blowdown. The nature reserve is a good used by the local population and forest exploitation is perceived as a valuable asset in the area. However, as time passes, the change in orientation of the Nature Reserve is inevitable as plantations age and episodes caused by wind blows increase. This project would present an opportunity for such changes to be managed to maximize benefits to nature while reducing the health and safety threats associated with increasing plantation age.
The last time the conservation status of the habitats at Raven Point was reported under Article 17 of Directive 92/43/EEC was in 2013. At that time, the structure and functions were unfavourable-poor and the habitat did not meet five of the evaluation criteria. Negative indicator species (Senecio jacobaea and Rosa sp.) and non-native tree species (Picea sp., Pinus sp., and Acer pseudoplatanus) were present in or around several monitoring points, and habitat damage was frequently identified. Much of the natural vegetation was sparse and positive indicator species were rare in places. Future prospects were assessed as unfavourable-poor due to encroachment of woody species, lack of proper management, and negative impacts of recreational activities. However, the Area was considered Favourable due to an increase in extent of 2130* in the southern part of the site through natural accumulation processes.
Several underlying factors are responsible for the poor condition of the dunes at the site. The conifer plantation is a source of non-native woody species that threaten the herbaceous vegetation of the fixed dunes. Restricting fixed dunes to a narrow strip along the eastern edge of the tongue increases recreational use impacts relative to total dune area. The lack of adequate management to maintain the herbaceous vegetation cover has had a negative impact on the structure and composition of natural communities. Given the complexity associated with managing a site for conservation and recreation, while reducing the impact of forestry management, a well-planned approach is required that takes into account the wide range of impacts and potential solutions. This project will provide a framework within which NPWS and COILLTE can work together with local stakeholders to develop solutions that deliver better conservation outcomes for Dunes 2130*. The relationships built throughout the project will be beneficial to the long-term management of the site and will strengthen the delivery of AfterLIFE tasks.