The main coastal and marine habitats found in the Solent are:
The Solent Forum has published an information pack on coastal and marine habitats in the Solent. Please use this pack to find out all about the coastal and marine habitats in the Solent.
The north shore of the Isle of Wight is composed mainly of soft and slumping clay cliffs and sheltered estuarine creeks and harbours. Saltmarshes have formed in many of the creeks and harbours. Guarding the entrance to many of the Island’s estuaries are well developed shingle spits supporting excellent examples of shingle vegetation. At the mouth of other estuaries sand dunes have formed. These maintain rich dune floras including many nationally scarce species. Around the edge of many of the Island’s estuaries brackish water lagoons have developed. Those within Newtown Harbour, the Yar Estuary, Wootton Creek mill pond and around Bembridge Harbour contain populations of nationally rare lagoon plants and animals. Inland of the estuaries, coastal grazing marshes have formed, with fine examples at Brading Marshes and along the Western Yar. The brackish water grasslands and complex network of ditches, drains and dykes that cross these marshes sustain a rich wetland flora and fauna including several nationally rare and uncommon species. The coastal habitats of the south of the Island contrast with those of the north coast and consist mainly of cliffs; high Chalk cliffs, which support important plant communities and cliff nesting bird colonies; and softer cliffs composed of sand and clay which slump into a series of grassy terraces. These disturbed grasslands are the habitat of the rare Glanville fritillary butterfly and many other rare and uncommon insects dependent upon these warm sandy grasslands.
The Island has a particularly varied intertidal zone. On the north coast the intertidal consists mainly of sheltered mud and sandflats. The rich invertebrate life found burrowing in these soft sediments provides a vital food source for large numbers of over wintering and migrating birds that visit the Solent shores. Scattered along this coast are also some extensive beds of eel-grass (Zostera species). At the eastern limit of the Island, Bembridge Ledges supports perhaps the greatest diversity of intertidal marine life. The contrasting mix of exposed and sheltered conditions provided by this marine limestone pavement supports a remarkable range of marine plants and animals. By contrast the south coast is subject to far greater wave energy and supports a distinct marine fauna and flora. This includes an exceptionally diverse range of species on the rocky sections of coast such as at Freshwater Bay and between St Catherines Point and Shanklin. The Island is one of the most important places in Britain for the specialist group of Chalk associated algal species which grow on the cliffs at Culver and the Needles (source: Isle of Wight Shoreline Management Plan).