The Struie Course at world-renowned Royal Dornoch has benefited from a project to reduce coastal flooding and help prevent erosion of the links.
Over the last three years, the club has supported a pioneering project to help restore a natural coastal defence and prevent part of the much-loved Struie succumbing to erosion.
The Green Shores project, based at the University of St Andrews, investigated replanting saltmarsh habitat in the Dornoch Firth. The project was part of a wider Scottish programme to recreate saltmarshes, an endeavour that has proven successful in the Eden Estuary in Fife, where degradation of the habitat was causing concern for the St Andrews Links Trust.
The on-going work at the Struie, particularly on the 10th hole, has built on Royal Dornoch’s commitment to its community and natural environment after it was awarded the coveted GEO Certified® ecolabel, an international symbol of ‘great golf environments’, in early 2018.
Saltmarshes provide important habitat for a wide range of wildlife and can provide greater carbon storage than other natural habitats, important to redress climate change. They also absorb wave energy and wherever saltmarshes exist, the land behind is less likely to be eroded or flooded.
However, shoreline degradation and climate change are increasingly placing these often-overlooked grassland areas under threat. With Royal Dornoch previously undertaking work to combat coastal erosion on the Struie – particularly due to flooding issues in the winter – the Green Shores project also sought to reduce coastal flooding.
As part of the project, Royal Dornoch greenkeepers helped with the heavy work of installing biodegradable structures called bio-rolls to reduce wave action.
Pupils from Dornoch Academy provided an enthusiastic planting labour force, learning about the role of saltmarsh in protecting Scotland’s low-lying shores from the sea. The pupils dug and replanted saltmarsh transplants behind the bio-rolls and also took saltmarsh to grow in the school’s polytunnel. Learning to grow transplants for future planting efforts is a vital part of the effort, as this reduces the need to directly dig up natural saltmarsh.
Dr Clare Maynard from the University of St Andrews has been at the heart of the work, with the project now completed. “The bio-roll experiment fared less well along the Dornoch Firth than other sites, due to the shore’s exposure to south westerly storms,” said Maynard. “However, although the bio-rolls were battered, the ones that survived provided enough shelter to allow sediment to settle out of tidal waters.
“This is a natural precursor to saltmarsh colonisation and demonstrates that we are a step closer to developing a continuous saltmarsh front for greater protection of the Struie Course. Creating natural flood defences, or building with nature, is not a quick fix, and although research-oriented in theory, relies heavily on trial and error when working practically.”
Neil Hampton, General Manager at Royal Dornoch, added: “It has been exciting for us all at Royal Dornoch to be involved in the Green Shores project and it continues our commitment to nature and the environment over our links.
“We have been working hard to protect the Struie Course from coastal erosion. We know this process takes time and we hope to build on our work in the months and years ahead. In protecting the land, it is an area of the Struie Course we could look at for future expansion.”