Coastal Vegetated Shingle

Shingle is an accumulation of pebbles with a diameter between 2-200mm. In Sussex the shingle is composed mainly of flint pebbles derived by marine or glacial erosion of Cretaceous chalk and Tertiary deposits.

Vegetated Shingle

Photo: Dee Christensen

Why is it important?

  • Vegetated shingle is a rare habitat and some of the plants and animals found here are very restricted in their distribution.
  • Nutrient levels are low and many plants found here have special adaptations to conserve water and prevent damage by salt spray, wind and shifting shingle.
  • Shingle is important for breeding birds, in particular gulls and terns.
  • Many rare species are found including species of moth and spider.

Coastal Vegetated Shingle in Sussex

There is around 1000 hectares of vegetated shingle in Sussex, which is almost a fifth of the total resource in England. Areas of vegetated shingle can be found in both East and West Sussex, with the most extensive area being in the Rye and Dungeness area.

What are the threats?

  • Coastal defence work can interrupt natural sediment movement which affects coastal habitats including vegetated shingle.
  • Sea level rise and increased storms could destroy vegetated shingle areas.
  • Recreation impacts including trampling, disturbance of animals and introduction of non-native plant species.

Some associated species

  • Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus
  • Little Tern Sternula albifrons
  • Toadflax Brocade Calophasia lunula
  • Brown-banded Carder Bee Bombus humilis
  • Yellow Horned Poppy Glaucium flavum
  • Sea Holly Eryngium maritimum

Sea Spurge

Photo: Laurie Jackson

Advice on coastal vegetated shingle

After Minerals
East Sussex Vegetated Shingle Management Plan
Natural England

Sussex Targets

Biodiversity Action Reporting System Website

Download the Coastal Vegetated Shingle Habitat Action Plan