The Solent is a huge single estuarine system which contains in excess of 9,000ha of intertidal sediment, and includes over 6,000ha of mudflats, 7,000 ha of sandflats, 400ha of ancient saltmarsh and nearly 1,800 ha of Spartina marsh. The mudflats are rich in invertebrates and are consequently important feeding grounds for waterfowl and waders.
Specific habitats found in the Solent include grazing marsh, vegetated shingle, sea cliffs, saltmarshes, mudflats, sand flats, rocky shores, lagoons and a variety of types of sea-bed. This includes unusual examples of natural gradations from maritime to coastal and marine habitats, that have been lost from other areas of the south coast. It is located at a transition between different biogeographic realms, therefore, many species are at the limits of their natural ranges.
Biodiversity Action Plans for the coastal and marine habitats and species in the Solent include the following:
- The Hampshire Coast Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP)
- The West Sussex Coastal BAP
- Isle of Wight Local Biodiversity Action Plan
- Hampshire Shorebirds Species Action Plan (SAP)
In May 2011, the EU Commission presented a new strategy to protect and improve the state of Europe's biodiversity over the next decade. The strategy includes six targets which address the main drivers of biodiversity loss, and which will reduce the main pressures on nature and ecosystem services in the EU by anchoring biodiversity objectives in key sectoral policies.