Solent Wildlife Series: Part 1, Habitats

By Hannah Cooper, Final Straw Foundation Intern

We love wildlife – our goal is to protect it from the human impacts of littering and pollution.  But what sort of wildlife are we protecting through our beach cleans and campaigning? The South Coast and the Solent are home to so many amazing species that we are proud to help protect. We have drawn up a list of some of the stunning habitats and amazing creatures you can find in our area to give an idea of just how lucky we are to be living here amongst them.  Each week we will be exploring a new aspect of Solent wildlife. First, let’s look at the types of habitats that we can find!

To find out why we have so many fantastic creatures living here, we first need to look at the environment that they live in – their habitats and what makes them. We have some incredible habitats in the Solent and surrounding areas, here are just a few:

Intertidal littoral reefs

These are rocky formations that are exposed to the changing tides. Plant, animal, and algal life develop on these rocks and create an abundant habitat. Reefs created from limestone and chalk have particularly distinct flora and fauna. The Isle of Wight is home to an important amount of these habitats and represents over 5% of Europe’s coastal chalk exposure. The Southern Coast of the Island has a variety of reefs including chalk, limestone, and sandstone and is home to many rare species which only live in this type of habitat*.

Image with thanks to Sue’s Walks on the IOW https://sues-walks-isle-of-wight.co.uk/ (c)

Eelgrass meadows

These amazing flowering meadows are home to creatures such as deep-snouted pipe fish, cuttlefish, short-snouted seahorse, and 5-spined stickleback. There are three main species of eelgrass – all three are found in the Solent and all three are considered vulnerable. You can find eelgrass beds in Langstone, Portsmouth and Chichester Harbours, around the coast of the Isle of Wight and in Stanswood Bay. **

Image copyright Lissie Pollard

Mudflats

These are intertidal habitats that are both underwater during high tide and exposed when it is low tide. They are formed when moving currents and the tide deposit silt, organic matter, and clay and are extremely important for birds that feed here as they have a plethora of shellfish and invertebrates that live on or below the surface of the mud.

Reedbeds

Reeds are incredible plants as they are able to use both salt and fresh water to survive. You can find reedbeds in Fishbourne, Emsworth, and Thorney Island. They are especially important in the latter area as they help clean the water coming from Thornham sewage works by trapping and using sediments and nutrients. Reedbeds are home to a wide range of amazing creatures, from the rare bittern and bearded tit to voles, snails, moths, and beetles that all rely on the shelter of the reeds and close proximity to water for their survival. 

Reedbeds Thorney Island – Image copyright Lissie Pollard

Sand Dunes

Sand dunes are created when vegetation such as marram grass traps sand blown by the wind from the shore and forms hills. There are a variety of locations nearby where you can find sand dunes, such as East Head and on Hayling Island. These dunes are home to birds such as skylarks, ringed plovers, and kestrels. Reptiles such as the sand lizard can also be found hiding in the dunes. ***

Hayling Island Sand Dunes Image (c) Lissie Pollard

These are just a select few of the amazing habitats we can find in our little corner of the earth. We hope you feel inspired to get outdoors and find some of these amazing environments yourself. We will be exploring in more detail the types of plant, animal, and algal life that we share this incredible region with in our next blog posts so let us know in the comments which species you’d love to be featured!

Sources:

* http://www.solentforum.org/publications/key_publications/habitat_info_pack/intertidal_reefs.pdf

**

***

https://www.conservancy.co.uk/

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s