Peat and Clay Exposures

This habitat includes areas of exposed peat and clay found between the tides and fully underwater. Peat and clay exposures are soft enough to allow them to be bored by a variety of piddocks (burrowing bivalve molluscs).

submerged forest at Pett

Photo: Barry Yates

Why are they important?

  • Peat and clay exposures with paddock activity are unusual communities of limited extent.
  • These unique and fragile habitats are irreplaceable, arising from former lake bed sediments and ancient forested peatland.

Peat and Clay Exposures in Sussex

Pett Level has an area containing the peaty remains of a submerged forest that grew several thousand years ago during times of much lower sea levels.

What are the threats?

  • Physical damage arising from development of infrastructure and coastal defence works
  • Both peat and clay are vulnerable to physical disturbance from activities such as mussel fisheries
  • In other parts of Europe native piddocks have been displaced by the non-native American Piddock Petricola pholadiformis

Some associated species

  • Common Piddock Pholas dactylus
  • Edible Crab Cancer pagurus
  • a red seaweed Ceramium virgatum
  • Sea Lettuce Ulva lactuca

Common Shore Crab

Photo: Robert Bailey/Sussex Wildlife Trust

Links to more information

The Marine Life Information Network