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The changing flora, fauna and sedimentation of the West Norfolk coast

The changing flora, fauna and sedimentation of the West Norfolk coast

Introduction

This research theme centres on monitoring the possible effects of flood-defence activity on the flora, fauna and sedimentation patterns of the West Norfolk coast. This area offers a mosaic of maritime habitats considered internationally important for wildlife conservation and bird migration. The economy of the area is driven by summer-time holiday-makers and by bird-watchers visit to enjoy a wide variety of geese, waders and other birdlife in diverse natural environments. However, the challenges of flood protection in the face of sea level rise have meant that the Environment Agency have embarked on a programme of coastal management including building higher sea-walls and replenishing beach materials. The scale and frequency of natural change is such that most coastal protection activities have a negligible affect. However, understanding of these variations provides a powerful tool in monitoring and predicting future changes in this fragile coastal environment.

Marram mobile dune community
Marram mobile dune community
Horned-poppy shingle community
Horned-poppy shingle community

Vegetation Monitoring

Snettisham Scalp SSSI is an area of ancient shingle beach ridges, which has been colonised by locally rare vegetation types. The relatively rapid annual shifts in plant communities make this area a dynamic, fascinating and valuable area of semi-natural habitat. It is also an important breeding area for wading birds. The northern part of Snettisham Scalp has marram (Ammophila) mobile dune communities, which have expanded both seaward and landward the expense of strandline communities, and semi-fixed dune/grassland. The horned-poppy (Glaucium) shingle communities have remained relatively stable, although bramble scrub has become established in many places. The vegetation in the middle section of the Scalp comprises a continuous Honkenya strandline community, marram (Ammophila) mobile dune communities. Glaucium shingle communities, and large areas of semi-fixed dune/grassland. The southern section of the Scalp, is characterised by marram (Ammophila) mobile dune communities, Glaucium shingle communities, mayweed (Tripleurospermum) communities, and an area of saltmarsh with Sueda maritima behind a recurved spit.

Vegetation Communities of Snettisham Scalp