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. It is located at a transition between different biogeographic realms, therefore, many species are at the limits of their natural ranges.
The Marine Impacts Climate Change Partnership has published a report card on climate change and marine biodiversity legislation, with a focus on the legislation used to establish various types of marine protected areas.
The Hampshire and Wight Wildlife Trust (HWWT) run two programmes that record species and habitats both above and below water. Shoresearch is the seashore recording and surveying project, in which volunteers identify and record what they find on the shore. Seasearch is a national project coordinated by the Marine Conservation Society that the HWWT have been running locally for several years in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
Natural England's Climate Change Adaptation Manual gives information on a wide range of coastal habitats and their sensitivity to climate change.
The Solent European Marine Site (SEMS) is one of a number of European marine sites in the UK which are designated as internationally important sites for their habitats and species. SEMS covers the harbours, estuaries, areas of open coast and inshore water around the Solent. The site stretches from Hurst Spit in the west to Chichester Harbour in the east and includes areas along the north coast of the Isle of Wight from Yarmouth to Bembridge Harbour, as well as the mainland shores. For more information please visit the SEMS Website. Detailed information on designated sites is available on Natural England's Designated Sites System which also gives information on the condition of the habitats; specific locations can be viewed on Defra's Magic Map.
To the South of the Isle of Wight there is a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) known as the South Wight European Marine Site. The marine part of this site has been designated as the South Wight Maritime European Marine Site (SWMEMS) following the implementation of the Habitats (92/43/EEC) and Birds (79/409/EEC) Directives.
In 2019, Defra announced the designation of a third tranche of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) to complete the Marine Protected Area (MPA) network. This tranche includes 41 new sites and additional features to already designated sites. Sites now designated in the Solent are from Yarmouth to Cowes, Bembridge and the Needles.
The Isle of Wight has been recognised as part of Unesco's worldwide network of Biosphere Reserves. The island was designated by the UN agency as one of 20 new areas considered for their environmental significance. Almost half of the Isle of Wight is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
There is an increasing awareness that improving biodiversity can be used as a nature based solution to a range of issues. The Forum hosts a Building Biodiversity in the Solent hub to collate and share information on this topic.