Habitats and their protection
The River Hamble has a wealth of interesting environmental features that include food rich mudflats, a wide variety of wildfowl, fish nursery areas, salt marsh that acts as a natural coastal defence and even historic ship wrecks.
The River is part of the Solent Estuarine system which is particularly noted for its national and international importance as a habitat for breeding and migratory birds. It is fascinating to see which birds will chose the Hamble as their home for the winter months. If it weren’t for food and shelter that the river provides these birds would no longer be seen here.
The main habitats found in the extensive inter-tidal areas include; 125 hectares of mudflats, 60 hectares of salt marsh and 60 hectares of coastal grazing marsh. At the mouth of the river there is a saline lagoon which is internationally designated. The Hamble offers some of the best examples of mature salt marsh on the south coast.
The mudflat and salt marsh habitats are important for wildfowl and wading birds, as well as for molluscs, crustacea and annelids. The water vole, the otter and important species of beetles, moths and invertebrates can also be found in the rivers habitats.
Nature Conservation Areas guidance
The River Hamble has a number of areas which are recognised as important sites for nature conservation. These designations are made because of particular habitats, species or numbers of a particular species found within the designated area.
Official monitoring and reporting on the status of designated sites is undertaken by Natural England (NE). Maps, the monitoring results, any required actions and those bodies responsible for these are available at www.natureonthemap.org.uk. A map showing site boundaries can also be found on the Hamble Estuary Partnership website.
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Lee-on-the-Solent to Itchen Estuary SSSI
A component of this SSSI includes several sections of the River Hamble. These sections are recognised as being Internationally Important for over-wintering dark-bellied brent geese. Nationally Important for teal, wigeon, dunlin & ringed plover. Additionally there is cord grass saltmarsh, as well as a high population of benthic invertebrates including species of mollusc, crustacea & marine worms. Low water intertidal muds provide major feeding grounds for waders and dark-bellied brent geese.
Lincegrove and Hackett's Marsh SSSI
Structurally this area is one of the best examples of mature saltmarsh on the south coast. Dominated by sea purslane, common cord grass, saltmarsh grass, sea lavender, thrift, sea aster & sea club rush, as well as providing feeding grounds & high water roosts for waders and geese.
Upper Hamble Estuary and Woods SSSI
Site includes woodland community species of ancient semi-natural woodland. With gradation from ancient semi-natural woodland to estuarine saltmarsh which is a nationally rare feature. The saltmarsh is particularly dominated by species such as sea couch grass, sea club rush, sea arrow grass, sea purslane & thrift. The mudland also supports large populations of marine worms, crustacea & molluscs. Consequently provide feeding grounds for several other species of birds including waders and ducks.
Special Protection Area
Solent and Southampton Water SPA
Designated as important because it is regularly used by the following species:
- mediterranean gull dark-bellied brent geese roseate tern
- sandwich tern teal
- common tern ringed plover
- little tern black-tailed godwit
Solent and Southampton Water - Wetland Of International Importance (Ramsar site)
Similarly to the SPA this has been designated because it regularly supports 20,000 waterfowl, and significant numbers of the following species.
- dark-bellied brent geese black-tailed godwit little tern
- teal sandwich tern roseate tern
- ringed plover common tern
Special Area of Conservation
Solent Maritime SAC
The sections of the River that are included within the SAC are principally designated for the saltmarsh incl. cord grass & mudflats. These areas provide extensive feeding areas for birds, in addition to being home to a significant assemblage of invertebrate, crustacea and molluscs. Due to the extended tidal stands caused by the proximity of the Isle of Wight there is greater feeding time for many of the species concerned.
What effect do these designations have?
In the case of SSSI's there are certain operations which require the prior permission of Natural England before they can take place. These 'Operations Likely To Damage' (OLDs) affect certain activities within or adjacent to the site. Any landowner or other person who has been notified of these designations by Natural England, wishing to undertake an operation which is deemed to be a OLD must give a minimum of three months notice to Natural England of their intentions. During this period Natural England will consider the application and give a decision as to whether the operation can take place or whether it is prohibited or may be undertaken within certain restrictions.
In respect of SPA and SAC a single management scheme is required, e.g. Not a separate plan for the Hamble and further plans for other parts of the site. This is based on information provided by Natural England including a set of conservation objectives and a favourable condition table for the site. The management scheme therefore considers all activities which take place within and adjacent to the SAC and measures whether or not they will have an adverse effect on the site therefore whether any form of control or inhibition / prohibition is required. Any new projects, not already considered by this management scheme will require separate consideration. Further information on the Solent European Marine Sites scheme.
In some circumstances consideration must be given to the granting of applications which may represent a cumulative effect. That is to say an operation that by itself may have no significant effect but if undertaken many times or in combination with other operations may cause a deterioration to the designated area.
When considering the effect of an operation on a designated site it is likely that some change to the designated site is inevitable. This change must be considered as to whether it is acceptable in terms of the designated features and falls within acceptable limits. Under certain conditions change which is outside of acceptable limits might be permitted on a designated site, this is usually only where the change is caused by a natural phenomena e.g. abnormal weather conditions.