Active sand dunes are distinct coastal habitats that sit between the land and marine domains. Characterised by their moving sands, they support a unique group of plants and animals. These plant and animal communities are threatened by human efforts to stabilise dunes for their own use.
The extent of active sand dunes was first estimated in 1911 (Cockayne 1911). Active dunelands were mapped for the 1950s, 1970s and 1980s by Hilton et al (2000) from published topographic maps. In the 1990s, their extent was mapped from aerial photographs held by local authorities and the Department of Conservation. The 2008 extent of active dunelands was mapped by Landcare Research for the Department of Conservation from satellite imagery.