Red List habitat classification > RLB - Coastal habitats > RLB1.1a Atlantic, Baltic and Arctic sand beach

Atlantic, Baltic and Arctic sand beach

Quick facts

Red List habitat type code RLB1.1a
Threat status
Europe Vulnerable
EU Vulnerable
Relation to
Source European Red List habitat factsheet
European Red List of habitats reports
European Red List of habitats (Excel table)

Summary

The beaches along the west-coast of the Atlantic Ocean, the North Sea and the Baltic form a transition between the marine and terrestrial world. The lower parts of the beach (sublittoral/littoral foreshore), which are inundated most of the day, are considered under marine habitats. The higher (supralittoral or – in the Baltic – geolittoral) part, only rarely inundates during extreme high tides, is considered under terrestrial types. Sand beaches are found along sedimentary coasts, where the sediments deposited by waves and currents have a particle size of about 0.1 to 2 mm. Sedimentation of finer coastal particles results in salt marshes(habitat A2.5b and c). Sedimentation of coarser material results in shingle shores (habitat B2.1-3a), while shores with particular large cobbles and boulders (about >100 mm) are considered under rocky shores and cliffs (habitat B3.1_3a).

Sand beaches form a very dynamic habitat under the constant influence of disturbance by sea water, wind and salt spray, causing erosion and accretion, and by amounts of organic matter brought by the tides. The sediment is supplied from erosion of the coasts, carried shoreward from the sea bottom or brought in by rivers. On Iceland and Macaronesian islands sand beaches may be made up of black, volcanic (basaltic) sediments. In the Baltic tidal influence is limited and salinity is relatively low; here beaches are more influenced by freshwater.

Vegetation is scarce in space and time , restricted to the backshore (higher beach) and mainly restricted to litter deposits on the high-tide line. Typical species of such drift-lines are a range of Atriplex species (Atriplex caltheca, Atriplex glabriuscula, Atriplex laciniata, Atriplex littoralis, Atriplex longipes, Atriplex patula, Atriplex prostrata), Cakile maritima (incl. different subspecies) and Salsola kali.  Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima is also frequently present, and grows on shingles as well. These are all annuals, adapted to dynamic, yearly changing conditions. Most of them have deep rooting systems in the freshwater floating on the deeper marine water. Seeds are dispersed by sea or wind and they have adaptations to deal with high salt concentrations. One of the few common perennial species on the Atlantic and North Sea beaches is Honckenya peploides, growing also in primary and white dunes, and often accompanied by primary dune species, like Elytrigia farctus subsp. boreoatlantica, Leymus arenarius, Ammophila arenaria and Calystegia soldanella. On the – less dynamic – Baltic Sea sand beaches perennial species are more common, including species associated with primary and white dunes, as well as helophytic species of wet conditions (Bolboschoenus maritimus, Scirpus tabernaemontani). Other typical species in the wet, lower parts of the Baltic beaches are often associated with pioneer habitat along rivers, like Potentilla anserina, Ranunculus sceleratus, Polygonum hydropiper, Rorippa palustris, Juncus bufonius, Polygonum lapathifoliym, Chenopodium rubrum and Agrostis stolonifera. Potentilla anserina is also common in boreal driftlines, for example in Iceland, Norway and Scotland, where it is accompanied by Mertensia maritima. Helophytic species may be found on Atlantic beaches as well, but only rarely, in places where freshwater leaches out of high dunes and forms streams to the sea. Also Salix shrubs may grow in such conditions. In the bay of Biscaye, Euphorbia peplis can grow on the upper part of sand beaches.

A group of typical invertebrates of beaches is associated with the drift lines and its vegetation, while several other invertebrates live oligophagous on characteristic plants species, like on Cakile maritima. Several bird species breed on beaches (for example ringed plover, little tern), often in places with many shells, but only in those places where there is no disturbance by tourism.  The Sanderling (Calidris alba) is a typical feeder in the surf on the beaches during its migration.

Indicators of good quality:

The following characteristics are considered as indicators of good quality:

·      Presence of drift-line vegetation
·      Forming gradients  and progressive morphologic profile towards primary dunes
·      Presence and success of breeding birds in spring/summer

Characteristic species
For full habitat description, please download the habitat factsheet.

Threat status

Synthesis of Red List assessment

Atlantic and Baltic sandy beaches are assessed as Vulnerable (NT) because of a large decline in quality (criterion C/D1) over the last 50 years, with values very close to the thresholds for Endangered. Besides, small declines in area have been reported. A problem with the assessment for this type is the uncertainty in the reported area data, which may be very unreliable for this habitat occurring in linear stretches. However, calculations with adapted values for countries reporting extreme high areas, did not affect the overall outcome of the assessment.
EU
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Vulnerable C/D1
Europe
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Vulnerable C/D1

Confidence in the assessment

medium
Red List of habitat categories and criteria descriptions

Pressures and threats

  • Urbanisation, residential and commercial development
    • Discontinuous urbanisation
  • Human intrusions and disturbances
    • Trampling, overuse
    • Intensive maintenance of public parcs / Cleaning of beaches
  • Pollution
    • Oil spills in the sea
    • Marine macro-pollution (i.e. plastic bags, styrofoam)
  • Invasive, other problematic species and genes
    • Invasive non-native species

Habitat restoration potential

The recovery time is very dependent on type of destruction, but in most cases when you built a harbor or an industry in the habitat it will never recover by it self, but if the industry is taken away and the habitat is restored, the species composition can be back in some decades.

Trends in extent

Average current trend in quantity

Decreasing Decreasing
EU28 EU28+

Trends in quality

Average current trend in quality

Decreasing Decreasing
EU28 EU28+

Conservation and management needs

The most important measures are regulation of the use of the sandy beaches, erradication of invasive species (Rosa rugosa) and international regulation of sea pollution.

List of conservation and management needs

  • Measures related to wetland, freshwater and coastal habitats
    • Restoring coastal areas
  • Measures related to spatial planning
    • Establish protected areas/sites
    • Legal protection of habitats and species
    • Manage landscape features
  • Measures related to urban areas, industry, energy and transport
    • Managing marine traffic

Distribution

For each habitat a distribution map was produced from a wide variety of sources indicating known and potential occurrences of the habitat in 10x10 km grids within Europe. Occurrences in grid cells were given in two classes: actual distribution from relatively reliable sources (surveys, expert knowledge), and potential distribution based on models or less reliable indicators. Please download the fact sheet to see the map.

Geographic occurrence and trends

EU28 Present or presence uncertain Current area of habitat (Km2) Recent trend in quantity (last 50 years) Recent trend in quality (last 50 years)
Belgium Present 1.8 Stable Stable
Denmark Present Unknown Unknown Unknown
Finland mainland Present 8 Decreasing Decreasing
Aland Islands Present 8 Decreasing Decreasing
France mainland Present 2875 Decreasing Decreasing
Germany Present 150 Decreasing Stable
Ireland Present 1 Decreasing Decreasing
Latvia Present 1 - Decreasing
Lithuania Present 2 Decreasing Stable
Netherlands Present 22.5 Increasing Stable
Portugal mainland Present 14 Decreasing Decreasing
Spain mainland Present 70 Decreasing Decreasing
Sweden Present 12 Stable Stable
United Kingdom Present 1322 Unknown Unknown
Northern Island Present 1322 Unknown Unknown
Poland Present 1 Unknown Unknown
EU28 + Present or presence uncertain Current area of habitat (Km2) Recent trend in quantity (last 50 years) Recent trend in quality (last 50 years)
Faroe Islands Present Unknown Unknown Unknown
Kaliningrad Present Unknown Unknown Unknown
Norway Mainland Present Unknown Unknown Unknown

Extent of Occurrence, Area of Occupancy and habitat area

Extent of Occurrence (EOO) (Km2) Area of Occupancy (AOO) Current estimated Total Area Comment
EU28 3564650 2672 3380 Data missing from Denmark and some uncertancies what the data represent from some countries
EU28+ 2775 3380 Data missing from Norway
AOO = the area occupied by a habitat measured in number of 10x10 km grid cells.
EOO = the area (km2) of the envelope around all occurrences of a habitat (calculated by a minimum convex polygon).

Characteristic species

The full list of characteristic species and genus are available above from the Summary. The species available in the EUNIS database are shown here.
Birds Calidris alba
Birds Charadrius alexandrinus
Birds Charadrius hiaticula
Birds Sternula albifrons
Flowering Plants Agrostis stolonifera
Flowering Plants Ammophila arenaria
Flowering Plants Atriplex glabriuscula
Flowering Plants Atriplex laciniata
Flowering Plants Atriplex littoralis
Flowering Plants Atriplex longipes
Flowering Plants Atriplex patula
Flowering Plants Atriplex prostrata
Flowering Plants Bolboschoenus maritimus
Flowering Plants Cakile maritima
Flowering Plants Calystegia soldanella
Flowering Plants Chenopodium rubrum
Flowering Plants Euphorbia peplis
Flowering Plants Juncus bufonius
Flowering Plants Leymus arenarius
Flowering Plants Matricaria maritima
Flowering Plants Mertensia maritima
Flowering Plants Polygonum hydropiper
Flowering Plants Polygonum maritimum
Flowering Plants Polygonum raii
Flowering Plants Potentilla anserina
Flowering Plants Ranunculus sceleratus
Flowering Plants Rorippa palustris
Flowering Plants Salsola kali
Flowering Plants Scirpus tabernaemontani
Species scientific name English common name Species group
Calidris alba Sanderling Birds
Charadrius alexandrinus Kentish Plover Birds
Charadrius hiaticula Ringed Plover Birds
Sternula albifrons Birds
Agrostis stolonifera Flowering Plants
Ammophila arenaria Flowering Plants
Atriplex glabriuscula Flowering Plants
Atriplex laciniata Flowering Plants
Atriplex littoralis Flowering Plants
Atriplex longipes Flowering Plants
Atriplex patula Flowering Plants
Atriplex prostrata Flowering Plants
Bolboschoenus maritimus Flowering Plants
Cakile maritima Flowering Plants
Calystegia soldanella Flowering Plants
Chenopodium rubrum Flowering Plants
Euphorbia peplis Flowering Plants
Juncus bufonius Flowering Plants
Leymus arenarius Flowering Plants
Matricaria maritima Flowering Plants
Mertensia maritima Flowering Plants
Polygonum hydropiper Flowering Plants
Polygonum maritimum Flowering Plants
Polygonum raii Flowering Plants
Potentilla anserina Flowering Plants
Ranunculus sceleratus Flowering Plants
Rorippa palustris Flowering Plants
Salsola kali Flowering Plants
Scirpus tabernaemontani Flowering Plants

Vegetation types

Relation to vegetation types (syntaxa)

Not available

Other classifications

This habitat may be equivalent to, or broather than, or narrower than the habitats or ecosystems in the following typologies.
Classification Code Habitat type name Relationship type
EUNIS Habitat Classification 200711 B1.1 Sand beach driftlines overlap
EUNIS Habitat Classification 200711 B1.2 Sand beaches above the driftline overlap
European Environment Agency (EEA)
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