- Abstract Transgressive dune fields, which are active sand areas surrounded by vegetation, exist on many coasts. In some regions like in Fraser Island in Australia, small dunes shrink while large ones grow, although both experience the same climatic conditions. We propose a general mathematical model for the spatiotemporal dynamics of vegetation cover on sand dunes and focus on the dynamics of transgressive dunes. Among other possibilities, the model predicts growth parallel to the wind with shrinkage perpendicular to the wind, where, depending on geometry and size, a transgressive dune can initially grow although eventually shrink. The larger is the initial area the slower its stabilization process. The model's predictions are supported by field observations from Fraser Island in Australia.