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November 27, 2009

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Michael--

An effort to protect a large expanse of rather unlikely sand dunes in the northern boreal forest of Saskatchewan, Canada, resulted in the establishment of a wilderness park. The area harbours some endemic plant species, which was a protection issue. You can read about it here: http://www.cpaws-sask.org/boreal_forest/athabasca_sand_dunes.html

There's a brief Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athabasca_Sand_Dunes_Provincial_Park

Regards,
--Howard (Calgary, Canada)

Howard - many thanks for this. I knew of the Athabasca sand dunes, but not in any detail. And via the Wikipedia link I also came across what looks like a very comprehensive report by the Canadian Geological Survey at http://gsc.nrcan.gc.ca/climate/sanddune/pdf/sanddune.pdf on Sand Dune and Climate Change Studies in the Prairie Provinces. I shall have to digest all this, but I definitely feel another post coming on!

I lived near the Veluwe in the Netherlands for a decade. It's pretty much all sand, but most of it covered by vegetation. The largest open sand desert is the "Kootwijkerzand" near Kootwijk. I wrote a paper about it way back. As far as I know it's the biggest sand desert in Europe. Kootwijk also has some very interesting buildings used for radio transmissions overseas, for example to Indonesia, for the purpose of telephony: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio_Kootwijk

Thanks for the comment - could you send me a copy of the paper?

My stepdad was P.H.Mullaard. He lived in Ermelo and painted the Hulshorster zanddunes in more than one painting. (see: Mullaard.com) He spoke with a forest keeper there and he was told that, when there is a thunderstorm in the area, there seems to be an unusual amount of lightning flashes that hit the dunes and make kraters in the ground.

Francien - thanks so much for this extraordinary link - it has stimulated a follow up post:

http://throughthesandglass.typepad.com/through_the_sandglass/2012/03/an-artists-view-of-hollands-inland-sand-seas.html

You ask about Nebraska. The Keystone pipeline project has intensified previous concern, as Wikipedia notes: "In a report (2011-11-10) on the Keystone Pipeline Project Presidential Permit Review Process, the U. S. State Department rejected TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline (Hardisty-Baker-Steele City) proposal. "[G]iven the concentration of concerns regarding the environmental sensitivities of the current proposed route through the Sand Hills area of Nebraska, the Department has determined it needs to undertake an in-depth assessment of potential alternative routes in Nebraska [...] The comments were consistent with the information in the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) about the unique combination of characteristics in the Sand Hills (which includes a high concentration of wetlands of special concern, a sensitive ecosystem, and extensive areas of very shallow groundwater) and provided additional context and information about those characteristics. The concern about the proposed route’s impact on the Sand Hills of Nebraska has increased significantly over time, and has resulted in the Nebraska legislature convening a special session to consider the issue." A center of local activity is http://sandhillstaskforce.org/
A good project in geoconservation with a long history is the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indiana_Dunes_National_Lakeshore
where urban inland children can learn about beach dynamics. You will be particularly interested in this program:
A Grain of Truth--As a class, the students will explore dunes and observe how winds and powerful waves work to create and erode moving sand dunes. There is a hike in the foredunes and down to the beach see first hand processes of dune building, and erosion. Availabile during spring, summer, and fall, the program is appropriate for 4th through 8th grade.

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