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KeyHaven Salt Marsh-Coastal Habitat 1


  • Hampshire Coastline, Eastern end of Christchurch Bay in the Western Solent- in the lee of (behind) Hurst Castle spit

Characteristics/Description of Habitat

  • Spit, formed by Longshore drift, provides a sheltered place for sediment to accumulate 
  • First plants to colonise the area are called pioneer species and are salt-tolerant
  • They have to be as they are loctaed in the low marsh so are inundated by the tide
  • Pioneer Species such as cordgrass, help to stabalise the area by trapping more sediment. causing the level of mud to rise and further plants to survive. Cordgrass has long roots to prevent it from being washed away by the waves
  • In high marsh area  the land is less saline (less frequently covered by saltwater from the sea) and are more fertile. Further plants begin to colonise the area, including sea lavenders and sea asters.
  • Gradually shurbs and trees are found with increasing distance from the sea. Gradual chnage in succession is known as vegetation succession.
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KeyHaven Salt Marsh-Coastal Habitat 2

Plants and wildlife:

  • Low Marsh- Cordgrassis salt tolerant (Halophyte) and can cope with being sub merged by saltwater for a long time. Grows fast on mudflats. Has long roots to prevent it from being swept away from the waves and tides. Tangle of roots helps to trap Sediment and stablise mud. 
  • High Marsh- sea lavendar, sea aster. Sea lavennder is salt excreter. Special pores in plants pump out salt water in leaves. Sun evaporates water and salt crystals beacome visible on the grass blades.
  • Birds that live on the land include: tern, oystercatcher, redshank, curlew, egret and brent geese. Wold spider- clings for hours to submerged stems of grass waiting for low tide adn food. Common blue butterfly found in the high marsh area. 
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KeyHaven Salt Marsh-Coastal Habitat 3

Threats to the area

  • Erosion from the sea- strong storms such as 1989 one which exposed 50-80m of the saltmarsh to the sea. 
  • Rise in sea level
  • Tourism
  • Recreation
  • Marsh retrating by up to 6m per year
  • Provides mooring for about 500 boats in small harbour. The wake from boats can cause erosion
  • Area is very popular with tourists
  • Numbers increasing from 400-4000 in the height of summer
  • Pollution from cars and trampoling from walkers are noticeable threats
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KeyHaven Salt Marsh-Coastal Habitat 4

Stratagies used to conserve environment but allow sustainable use of the area

  • Height of summer 4000 visitors daily- honeypot site
  • Visitors managed carefully so saltmarsh can be used but not damaged
  • New Forest council proposed idea to pput rock boulders on edge of lanes to border marsh which will stop cars from parking there and causing saltmarsh die back- e.g. New Lane and Saltgrass lane
  • No extra car parks to be bulit as then more traffic would be created
  • Iley footpath made into foot and cycle path so people able to access marsh
  • Further protection, SSSI and wetlands RAMSAR site mean that Birds such as little egret and Brent geese are protected under European Law
  • Marine activities threat also as wash produced from boats that moor there
  • to manage this vessles must adhire to speed limit of 6 knots
  • Hurst Castle spit strengthened with beach nourishment adn 550m of rock armour infront of it
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