The variety of habitats at Horn Head and Rinclevan, the intact transitions between them and the size of the site contribute significantly to its importance for biodiversity conservation in Ireland. The 2130* fixed dunes here occupy 292.33 ha, 3.62% of the habitat in the national total (0.3% of the total habitat area in the EU). The coniferous planting was carried out along the banks of a stream that runs close to the limit of the fixed dunes 2130*. With the removal of the trees, the natural transition between the stream and the fixed dunes will be re-established, as well as restoring the natural conditions that are beneficial to the native flora of Habitat 2130* in the North-West of Ireland. In particular, by removing the blockage to aeolian deposits of sand, the availability of deposits rich in calcium will be restored, which, together with a greater penetration of light, will favor the flora of the communities of 2130*. The current management of the dunes as a grazing area (by agreement with local farmers) will be extended to the restored areas to avoid the invasion of shrubby species and maintain a herbaceous flora.
Dune habitats at Horn head and Rinclevan were last assessed in 2013 for notification under Article 17 of Directive 92/43/EEC. The fixed dunes were considered to be in unfavorable or unsuitable condition at the time due to disturbance associated with agriculture. There was evidence of a small reduction in the total area of sand dune habitats (0.4 ha) that was attributed to natural conditions. However, rising sea levels and increased storm events associated with climate change are expected to increase the rate of coastal erosion, with consequent reductions in island habitats. Currently, the losses due to accelerated erosion are hardly compensated by increasing the total area of dune habitats. The removal of coniferous plantations and the restoration of the 2130* fixed dunes at Rinclevan offers a rare opportunity to increase the national resource of a priority habitat in Annex I of Directive 92/43/EEC currently threatened by climate change.
Coniferous plantations occupy 21.64 ha within the limits of the SAC. The plantation is not managed as a cash crop and many trees are now mature, overripe or senescent. The action of windbreaks affects the structure and development of natural herbaceous formations, and the risk of windbreaks increases over time as the plantation ages. The state-owned section of sand dunes is a well used by the local population and the forest formations are positively perceived by the local population. However, as time goes by, the change in character of the Nature Reserve is inevitable as the trees age. In particular, over-mature trees will be blown down by the wind, disrupting the development of herbaceous dune flora, limiting access and creating a visual eyesore. This project represents an opportunity to manage such changes in the interests of maximizing the benefits to nature and recreation, while reducing the health and safety threats associated with the aging of the plantation.