This study reports the results of restoration management on sand dune environments along the coastal belt of the Castelporziano nature reserve (Rome, Italy) and the subsequent monitoring phases to test the sustainability of the ‘soft techniques’ applied. In the area concerned, over a length of ca. 3 km, 40 dunes were built up along with three belts located at < 40 m, 40–70 m, and > 70 m, respectively, from the shoreline. On each of 38 dunes 20 individuals of Ammophila littoralis were planted; this species is one of the local autochthonous species considered particularly suitable for stabilizing sand dunes. After one year, two years and five years, respectively, the changes in height and surface of each dune, the survival rates of A. littoralis, and its changes in cover, the appearance of new shoots and the establishment of new species were observed. A progressive increase in species number, which five years after the restoration amounted to about 60% of those characterizing the natural dunes, was reported indicating a progressive trend towards populations similar to natural ones. In the colonization of new species there is a prevalence of the Sporobolus-Elymetum farcti and the Salsolo kali-Cakiletum maritimae association, while the species established successively refer to the Echinophoro spinosae-Ammophiletum arundinaceae association and the Crucianellion maritimae alliance as occurring in natural successions.
This succession runs parallel to the natural dune colonization processes. In particular, the data regarding survival, cover and number of vegetative shoots indicate that the dune belt between 40 and 70 m from the sea is the one most suitable for restoration.
Some changes in dune morphology was observed: the height of the artificial dunes tended to decrease considerably in the five years of observation, whereas a progressive increase in their surface area was observed. During the study period, A. littoralis favoured the establishment of new species, but as yet exercises no action on increasing dune height.