LANDSCAPE / Protective Dune Ridge

Massive sand movement in the spit could be hindered only by major dune stabilization and reforestation works. Sand stabilization works were launched by the chief dune inspector Danish-descended Soren Bjorn (1744-1819) in 1805 with reference to testing performed by Prof. J. D. Titius, data obtained by Copenhagen Prof. of Botany V. Viborg and his own observations and experiments. One of the key tasks - formation of protective dune ridge (also called a foredune, protection dike, protective beach ridge) intended for sand accumulation and shore protection.

Protective dune ridge creation works lasted intermittently. A dune ridge of 29 km in length within the Krantas - Šarkuva section was formed in 1829.  In 1810-1865, the Magistrate of Klaipėda initiated the restoration of protective dune ridge and afforestation of individual dunes in Smiltynė. By 1859, it was expanded towards Rasytė and formed almost to Pervalka. A separate 5 km long section was arranged in Juodkrantė. By 1881, the protective dune ridge formation works took place from Kopgalis to the halfway between Pervalka and Juodkrantė approximately within 28,5 km section. In 1885-1892, the dune ridge between Preila and Pervalka was handled. The first stage of fighting against drifting dunes lasted till 1904. Within this period a protective dune ridge of about 98 km long was formed in the entire seashore of the Curonian Spit.

Protective dune ridge reinforcement works were arranged in the following way. Two lines of barriers of thicker tree branches and poles were constructed approximately 50 60 m away from the sea and in 2 m distance one from another. The barriers were arranged in a straight line, along the seashore. At the beginning they were made 1,26 m high with supports to resist the wind. Later the height of fences was reduced to 0,7 m, applying the poles 5-6 cm thick and 1 m long. They were hammered about 30 cm into the sand leaving 5 cm gap between the poles. Usually such barriers were made in spring.  When they were covered by sand after 2-3 weeks, the construction of the same barriers in two lines on the newly formed dikes was proceeded until the dune reached the height of 1,5 m.

G. Hagen, dune inspector, stated the main recommendations for protective dune ridge formation as follows:

  •  It must be of straight line parallel to the sea coast.
  • It must be away from the sea to the extent to avoid wave impact approx. 30-50 m.
  • The top ridge of dune shall be horizontal. Concave and uneven top ridge could cause whirlwinds resulting in deflated areas and irregularities in the entire dike.
  • A slope facing the sea should be longer and more inclined (height-length ratio 1:6) and facing the land shorter and steeper (1:2).

When the required height of dune ridge had been reached the slopes of dune were planted with particular sand grass Baltic Marram grass (Ammophyla arenaria, A. baltica) and lyme grass (Elymus arenarius) in autumn or spring of the same year.  The above grass grows thickly and can tolerate sand drifting. Planting was attempted to be arranged in autumn to make the adaptation much better. Mainly women were involved in grass planting; about 300 people were working at a time.

Protective dune ridge formation works were managed by H. Senftleben in 1830 -1864. The other managers to be mentioned: S.A. Krause, P.Gerhardt. The recommendations by G. Hagen had great practical significance complying to which the dune inspector L. Dempwolf arranged the protective dune ridge in Klaipėda Juodkrantė section as of 1877 that successfully resisted the hurricane wind in 1898 1899. In 1928-1937 the protective dune ridge was supervised by Dune Inspectorate under Klaipėda Port Council (50 dune rangers employed). Dune inspector V. Markelis should be distinguished as an officer who did really great job.

After World War II, the forest and land reclamation expedition arranged by the Ministry of Forestry as of 1949 stated that 31% of entire protective dune in the Curonian Spit had been stripped away.  Sand stabilization ant planting works that started in 1949 were of small scale and muddled along, therefore appeared to be not very successful - such work was new and unusual for operating personnel.  Lack of funds was also a factor of inefficiency. Methodical and consistent works were started in 1951 and are still continuing.  Currently, the Directorate of Kuršių Nerija National Park is in charge of supervision and maintenance of protective dune ridge.

Methods, techniques and materials for protective dune ridge formation and maintenance has been changing throughout the 200 years history, however this activity is still one of the most relevant among coastal management works in the Curonian Spit. It is very important that the dune ridge is still retaining its protective function and not becoming a tourist spot only. It illustrates the continuing evolution of cultural landscape and coexistence of Human and Nature.


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