The Importance of the Solent

The Solent is a strait, running between the Isle of Wight and the Hampshire coastline. It is one of the busiest bodies of water in the UK, and is actively used for international shipping, military activity, commercial fishing, the cruise industry and recreation. It is surrounded by several cities, towns and villages, and agricultural land. With all this activity happening in and around the Solent, there is an impact on the environment which is causing issues for the species that depend on it.

The Solent is a complex and diverse stretch of coastline, which supports a range of habitats, including reefs, seagrass beds, salt marshes and mudflats. The Solent is regularly visited by common and bottlenose dolphins, and is home to seals, sharks, seahorses, cuttlefish and eels – many of which appear on the International Union for Conservation of Nature red list of threatened species.

Above the waves, the Solent is critically important for native and migratory bird species. Migrating birds visit the Solent from all around the world and use its rich habitats as feeding grounds before flying home to breed. This means that the Solent is not just important on a national level, but also an international level. In recognition of this, the strait is protected with Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), Special Protected Areas (SPAs), Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and the Solent Waders and Brent Goose Strategy.

Nutrient neutrality was introduced in the Solent due to the high concentrations of nutrients found in the protected sites. The increase in nutrients coming from the surrounding catchment has led to the development of algal mats, which during the low tide, sit on top of the tidal flats where birds feed. These mats damage habitats and restrict birds from feeding, making it harder for them to survive in the winter and regain the energy to fly back home.

To find out more:

Secrets of the Solent, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust

Wildlife, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust

Meet the Birds, Bird Aware Solent