Island Life Magazine Ltd December 2008/January 2009 - Page 75

COUNTRYSIDE, WILDLIFE & FARMING Saving our diverse coastline Our coastline is one of the most diverse in the whole of Britain, with a range of habitats that reflects the full variety of the rest of the country including developed coastal land, undeveloped land and cliffs. But is also one of the most crowded, meaning those habitats are under increasing pressure. Among other habitats, our coastline is home to intertidal salt marsh and mudflats, which are internationally important for over-wintering and breeding waders, wildfowl and seabirds. And our cliffs are home to important insects and rare plants. But a range of threats including relative sea level rise, development pressure and the degradation of old sea defences have combined to make some of these coastal habitats and the wildlife they support amongst the most threatened in the two counties. By Abi Jarvis woodland depending on the time since the last slip, but whatever the habitat type, it’s a far-from-permanent platform for wildlife to thrive. But species have adapted to this constant change to take advantage of these short-term habitats. The bare ground, warm south-facing aspect and frequent seepages of water allow a range of invertebrates to survive in what may seem to the human eye as a completely hostile environment. Specialist insects abound such as mining bees, nomad bees, solitary bees and the life wonderfully named sandy shore-bug and saxicolous pin-palp beetle. The south coast of the Isle of Wight has over 22km of soft cliffs stretching from Compton Bay to Redcliff near Sandown. This huge resource provides food and shelter for 397 species, including 25 species found only in this habitat. Most famous is the Glanville fritillary butterfly; its caterpillar feeds off the ribwort plantain plant, which colonises bare ground before grasses can get a hold. This colourful community of insects is now known to be one of the most diverse in the whole country. Meanwhile in the far west of Hampshire, the View from Ventnor Botanic Garden The cliffs of Hampshire and the Island Offering contrasting habitats, our cliffs fall into two distinct groups: the soft cliffs of Hampshire and much of the Isle of Wight, and the imposing harder chalk cliffs at either end of the Island. If you ever needed proof of the adaptability of wildlife, look no further than the soft cliffs of Hampshire and much of the Island’s coastline. These cliffs are easily eroded by land, rain and sea. Mud and boulders can give rise to grasslands and even scrub and The Island's new funky radio station www.wightfm.com Water Vole by Chris Bean 75