The UK coastline is one of the longest in Europe. It is also one
of the most varied and dynamic, constantly evolving and shifting
over time. The coast provides a home for many highly specialised
plants and animals.
The UK coast supports a range of well-known habitat types.
Coastal saltmarsh and Coastal shingle habitats occur within
reach of the tides and are subject to periodic saltwater inundation
and wave action. Pioneer and salt- and flood-tolerant species are
characteristic of this environment. Further inland, where the sea
seldom reaches, Coastal sand dune, Machair
and Coastal cliff habitats occur. These areas
are typically windswept, arid and brackish. Dune areas, in
particular, support highly specialised plants. Moving inland,
habitats become increasingly terrestrial, with various types of
coastal grassland, heathland and scrub types predominating.
UK coastal habitats are a priority for nature conservation. This
is partly due to the variety of specialised species associated with
them, but also because of their naturalness, fragility,
scarcity and intrinsic appeal. Accordingly, there are
seventeen coastal habitat types listed under Annex I of the EU
Habitats Directive and five coastal priority
habitats listed under the UK Biodiversity Action