The Solent is a huge single estuarine system which contains in excess of 9,000ha of intertidal sediment, and includes over 6,000ha of mudflats, 7,000 ha of sandflats, 400ha of ancient saltmarsh and nearly 1,800 ha of Spartina marsh. The mudflats are rich in invertebrates and are consequently important feeding grounds for waterfowl and waders. Specific habitats include grazing marsh, vegetated shingle, sea cliffs, saltmarshes, mudflats, sand flats, rocky shores, lagoons and a variety of types of sea-bed. This includes unusual examples of natural gradations from maritime to coastal and marine habitats, that have been lost from other areas of the south coast. Most of the Solent coastline and its waters has been designated as a Marine Protected Area, this is against a backdrop of intensive human use for housing, industry and recreation.
Nationally and locally, there have been extensive historic losses of intertidal habitats, chiefly due to human activities, mostly related to land claim, and the construction of sea defences, ports and harbours. It has been estimated that some 100,000 ha of British saltmarshes were lost between 1600 and 1900, mainly for land reclamation for agricultural production. More recent losses in saltmarsh have been attributed to coastal squeeze, isostatic tilt, sea level rise and/or increased storminess.
The Environment Bill has been designed to set out a framework by which ministers can put in place new targets on vital issues like air pollution, water quality, waste and resource use and biodiversity.
To help share and promote work on this key issue of importance in the Solent, the Solent Forum have set up these pages to help collate information. This will be an ongoing task with new material added once available. We have focused on the key areas set out in the list below.