The Solent Coast IPA
Location: West and east of Southampton, between Christchurch and Chichester, north of the Isle of Wight.
Grid Reference: SU 460 007
The Solent Coast IPA has been recognised as one of 165 Important Plant Areas in the UK.
The key features of this IPA are:
Salt tolerant vegetation on intertidal saltmarshes;
Coastal cord-grass (Spartina) swards;
The Solent Coast encompasses a major estuarine system on the south coast of England.
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.
It has four coastal plain estuaries (Yar, Medina, King’s Quay Shore, Hamble) and four bar-built estuaries (Newtown Harbour, Beaulieu, Langstone Harbour, Chichester Harbour). 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.
The Solent is a composite site comprising a large number of separate areas of salt meadows which are notable for being of the ungrazed type and thus support a range of communities dominated by sea-purslane, common sea-lavender and thrift. It encompasses a series of coastal lagoons supporting a diversity of plants including large populations of the nationally rare foxtail stonewort.
The area is considered of European importance for stoneworts. It is the only site for smooth cord-grass in the UK and one of only two sites where significant amounts of small cord-grass are found. It is also one of the few remaining sites for Townsend’s cord-grass and holds extensive areas of common cord-grass, all four occurring here in close proximity. The extensive estuarine flats within the estuaries include intertidal areas supporting eelgrass Zostera spp. and green algae.