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Special Areas of Conservation

Solent Maritime

Designated Special Area of Conservation (SAC)
Country England
Unitary Authority Extra-Regio, Hampshire and Isle of Wight, Surrey, East and West Sussex
Centroid* SU756003
Latitude 50.79638889
Longitude -0.927777778
SAC EU Code UK0030059
Status Designated Special Area of Conservation (SAC)
Area (ha) 11243.12
* This is the approximate central point of the SAC. In the case of large, linear or composite sites, this may not represent the location where a feature occurs within the SAC.
Location of Solent Maritime SAC

General site character

  • Marine areas, Sea inlets (14%)
  • Tidal rivers, Estuaries, Mud flats, Sand flats, Lagoons (including saltwork basins) (59%)
  • Salt marshes, Salt pastures, Salt steppes (23%)
  • Coastal sand dunes, Sand beaches, Machair (0.5%)
  • Shingle, Sea cliffs, Islets (3%)
  • Broad-leaved deciduous woodland (0.5%)

Download the Standard Data Form for this site (PDF <100kb)

Note When undertaking an appropriate assessment of impacts at a site, all features of European importance (both primary and non-primary) need to be considered.

Annex I habitats that are a primary reason for selection of this site

  • 1130 Estuaries

    The Solent encompasses a major estuarine system on the south coast of England with four coastal plain estuaries (Yar, Medina, King’s Quay Shore, Hamble) and four bar-built estuaries (Newtown Harbour, Beaulieu, Langstone Harbour, Chichester Harbour). The site is the only one in the series to contain more than one physiographic sub-type of estuary and is the only cluster site. The Solent and its inlets are unique in Britain and Europe for their hydrographic regime of four tides each day, and for the complexity of the marine and estuarine habitats present within the area. Sediment habitats within the estuaries include extensive estuarine flats, often with intertidal areas supporting eelgrass Zostera spp. and green algae, sand and shingle spits, and natural shoreline transitions. The mudflats range from low and variable salinity in the upper reaches of the estuaries to very sheltered almost fully marine muds in Chichester and Langstone Harbours. Unusual features include the presence of very rare sponges in the Yar estuary and a sandy ‘reef’ of the polychaete Sabellaria spinulosa on the steep eastern side of the entrance to Chichester Harbour.

  • Solent Maritime is the only site for smooth cord-grass Spartina alterniflora in the UK and is one of only two sites where significant amounts of small cord-grass S. maritima are found. It is also one of the few remaining sites for Townsend’s cord-grass S. x townsendii and holds extensive areas of common cord-grass Spartina anglica, all four taxa thus occurring here in close proximity. It has additional historical and scientific interest as the site where S. alterniflora was first recorded in the UK (1829) and where S. x townsendii and, later, S. anglica first occurred.

  • The Solent contains the second-largest aggregation of Atlantic salt meadows in south and south-west England. Solent Maritime is a composite site composed of a large number of separate areas of saltmarsh. In contrast to the Severn estuary, the salt meadows at this site are notable as being representative of the ungrazed type and support a different range of communities dominated by sea-purslane Atriplex portulacoides, common sea-lavender Limonium vulgare and thrift Armeria maritima. As a whole the site is less truncated by man-made features than other parts of the south coast and shows rare and unusual transitions to freshwater reedswamp and alluvial woodland as well as coastal grassland. Typical Atlantic salt meadow is still widespread in this site, despite a long history of colonisation by cord-grass Spartina spp.

Annex II species that are a primary reason for selection of this site

  • Not Applicable

Annex II species present as a qualifying feature, but not a primary reason for site selection

Many designated sites are on private land: the listing of a site in these pages does not imply any right of public access.