Red List habitat classification > RLB - Coastal habitats > RLB2.1a Atlantic, Baltic and Arctic coastal shingle beach

Atlantic, Baltic and Arctic coastal shingle beach

Quick facts

Red List habitat type code RLB2.1a
Threat status
Europe Least Concern
EU Least Concern
Relation to
Source European Red List habitat factsheet
European Red List of habitats reports
European Red List of habitats (Excel table)

Summary

This habitat includes coastal shingle deposits, made up of pebbles or small to medium-sized cobbles, in the Arctic, Atlantic and Baltic region. It includes the higher supralittoral (or geolittoral) part of beaches above mean high tide which do not contain marine plant and animal communities. Such deposits are the result of sedimentation in a high energy environment of relatively coarse material (diameter between 2 and 200 mm) derived from eroded cliffs or glacial moraines.  Shingle deposits are mostly found in previously glaciated areas, and are therefore more common along the northern Atlantic and Baltic shores than in the Mediterranean and Black Sea. The majority and the best examples are found on the British and French coasts with 30% of the beaches of England and Wales consisting of shingle. 

Variation in shingle deposits depends on geomorphology and coastal location. Typical shingle beaches are steep, because the waves easily flow through the coarse surface of the beach, decreasing the effect of backwash erosion and increasing the formation of sediment. One or two ridges can be noted, which indicate highest and mean tide or more on stormy beaches. The pebbles and cobbles often have been rounded by the wave activity, and the material usually consists of hard rocks, for example quartzite, granite and sandstone. Shores with larger cobbles, boulders or stable rocks are considered under B3.1a Rocky shores and cliffs. A mixture of shores with stones and finer material (shingles) between them is very common on moraine shores and in some locations extensive apposition beaches or cuspate forlands develop, where a series of consolidated parallel ridges of shingle structures are formed.  Much the largest site (over 2000 ha) is at Dungeness in Kent, southern England but other examples are found at Korshage in Denmark and on the German island of Rügen. 

Because of the movement of the pebbles and stones, due to the tidal waves, this is a very dynamic environment where almost no perennial plant species can live but stabilized deposits can trap sand, silt or clay and driftlines with organic material can occur when slightly more abundant but still very open vegetation may develop. On apposition beaches and in the northern Baltic Sea where these shores are derived from moraine with mixed grain size, there are also variants with more abundant vegetation.

Characteristic plant species are mostly perennial, halophytic and nitrophilous and include Crambe maritima, Glaucium flavum, Honckenya peploides, Beta maritima, Rumex crispus and in the northern regions Mertensia maritima, Leymus arenarius and Lathyrus japonicus (= L. maritimus). In the high arctic (Svalbard) typical species of stony beaches are Mertensia maritima, Cerastium alpinum, Cochlearia officinalis ssp. groenlandica and Sagina intermedia.  Where driftlines are deposited, Cakile maritima , Salsola kali and Atriplex species may grow, species also common on sand beaches. In the Baltic region, shores with less rounded stones of variable size occur which are included in this shingle habitat, although they are not shingles in a strict sense. These habitats are common on moraine shores and have an open structure of stones and boulders of different sizes (6-60 cm), with meadow-like patches between them. Vegetation cover is in general less than 50%. Besides more-or-less halophytic species, like Glaux maritima, Centaurium littorale, Centaurium pulchellum, Agrostis stolonifera and Plantago maritima, also species more characteristic for tall-herb communities are found, like Phalaris arundinacea, Vicia cracca, Sonchus arvensis var. maritimus, Valeriana sambucifolia ssp. salina, Angelica archangelica ssp. litoralis, Rumex crispus, Plantago major ssp. intermedia, Tanacetum vulgare and Veronica longifolia.  More stabilized shingle deposits with grassland, scrub and woodland are considered under Red List habitats B2.4, B2.5 and B2.6.

Shingle beaches are a hostile environment for most animal species, very dry with extreme fluctuations in temperature. However, some seabirds and waders nest on consolidated shingle and certain specialized invertebrates are associated with this habitat, mainly occurring on the higher, rarely inundated parts, in places where plants grow. The fauna includes a relatively large set of bees (particularly Bombus bumble bees) , wasps, ants, beetles and spiders, of which several are restricted to this habitat. 

Indicators of good quality:

  • No disturbance of fauna, inclusing ground breeding birds and resting grey seals
  • Presence of rare fauna species
  • No intensive trampling or mechanical removing of shingle or vegetation
  • Stability of plant populations

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

Threat status

Synthesis of Red List assessment

None of the thresholds of the Red List are met, resulting in the category Least Concern. There is some concern about the future development of the habitat under increased sea level and stronger and more storms (as a result of global warming), but these prospects could not be expressed in a quantitative way. Anyway, these threats are not expected to cause damage at a scale that would result in any Red List criterion being met and it is impossible to predict where new deposition may occur.
EU
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Least Concern -
Europe
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Least Concern -

Confidence in the assessment

medium
Red List of habitat categories and criteria descriptions

Pressures and threats

  • Mining, extraction of materials and energy production
    • Removal of beach materials
  • Human intrusions and disturbances
    • Trampling, overuse
  • Pollution
    • Pollution to surface waters (limnic, terrestrial, marine & brackish)
  • Natural System modifications
    • Sea defense or coast protection works, tidal barrages
  • Climate change
    • Flooding and rising precipitations
    • Wave exposure changes

Habitat restoration potential

It is likely that the habitat can recover from gravel extraction, but in a natural way it may take a long time. Restoration through intervention may be possible, but artificial adding pebbles and gravel to a beach may cause more harm to the biota than leading to restoration.

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

This is a natural habitat that best can be managed by reducing negative human impacts (tourism, urbaniation, gravel extraction) as much as posisble.

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

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)
Ireland Present Unknown Unknown
Finland mainland Present 25 Stable Stable
Aland Islands Uncertain 25 Stable Stable
Germany Present unknown Decreasing Decreasing
Netherlands Present marginal - -
Denmark Present 20 Decreasing Unknown
Estonia Present 10 Unknown Stable
France mainland Present 20 Decreasing Decreasing
Spain mainland Present 10 Stable Unknown
United Kingdom Present 56 Decreasing Stable
Northern Island Present 56 Decreasing Stable
Latvia Present 0.7 Decreasing Decreasing
Sweden Present unknown - -
Poland Present 1 Decreasing Decreasing
Portugal mainland Uncertain unknown Unknown Unknown
Portugal Azores Present unknown Unknown Unknown
Madeira Present unknown 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)
Guernsey Uncertain - -
Iceland Present unknown Unknown Unknown
Isle of Man Uncertain - -
Jersey Uncertain - -
Norway Mainland Present unknown Unknown Unknown
Svalbard Present unknown Unknown Unknown
Jan Mayen 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 4765950 1534 170 present area and Sweden, Germany
EU28+ 1831 220 large area in Norway and Iceland
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 Arenaria interpres
Birds Haematopus ostralegus
Birds Tringa totanus
Flowering Plants Agrostis stolonifera
Flowering Plants Angelica archangelica
Flowering Plants Aster tripolium
Flowering Plants Atriplex laciniata
Flowering Plants Atriplex prostrata
Flowering Plants Beta maritima
Flowering Plants Cakile maritima
Flowering Plants Centaurium littorale
Flowering Plants Centaurium pulchellum
Flowering Plants Cerastium alpinum
Flowering Plants Cochlearia officinalis
Flowering Plants Crambe maritima
Flowering Plants Desmazeria marina
Flowering Plants Eryngium maritimum
Flowering Plants Glaucium flavum
Flowering Plants Glaux maritima
Flowering Plants Honkenya peploides
Flowering Plants Inula crithmoides
Flowering Plants Isatis tinctoria
Flowering Plants Lathyrus japonicus
Flowering Plants Lavatera arborea
Flowering Plants Leymus arenarius
Flowering Plants Linaria vulgaris
Flowering Plants Matricaria maritima
Flowering Plants Mertensia maritima
Flowering Plants Phalaris arundinacea
Flowering Plants Plantago maritima
Flowering Plants Polygonum maritimum
Flowering Plants Polygonum raii
Flowering Plants Rumex crispus
Flowering Plants Sagina intermedia
Flowering Plants Salsola kali
Flowering Plants Sonchus arvensis
Flowering Plants Suaeda fruticosa
Flowering Plants Tanacetum vulgare
Flowering Plants Tripleurospermum maritimum
Flowering Plants Veronica longifolia
Flowering Plants Vicia cracca
Invertebrates Ethelcus verrucatus
Invertebrates Pseudomogoplistes squamiger
Invertebrates Sitticus inexpectus
Invertebrates Trichoncus affinis
Species scientific name English common name Species group
Arenaria interpres Turnstone Birds
Haematopus ostralegus Oystercatcher Birds
Tringa totanus Redshank Birds
Agrostis stolonifera Flowering Plants
Angelica archangelica Flowering Plants
Aster tripolium Flowering Plants
Atriplex laciniata Flowering Plants
Atriplex prostrata Flowering Plants
Beta maritima Flowering Plants
Cakile maritima Flowering Plants
Centaurium littorale Flowering Plants
Centaurium pulchellum Flowering Plants
Cerastium alpinum Flowering Plants
Cochlearia officinalis Flowering Plants
Crambe maritima Flowering Plants
Desmazeria marina Flowering Plants
Eryngium maritimum Flowering Plants
Glaucium flavum Flowering Plants
Glaux maritima Flowering Plants
Honkenya peploides Flowering Plants
Inula crithmoides Flowering Plants
Isatis tinctoria Flowering Plants
Lathyrus japonicus Flowering Plants
Lavatera arborea Flowering Plants
Leymus arenarius Flowering Plants
Linaria vulgaris Flowering Plants
Matricaria maritima Flowering Plants
Mertensia maritima Flowering Plants
Phalaris arundinacea Flowering Plants
Plantago maritima Flowering Plants
Polygonum maritimum Flowering Plants
Polygonum raii Flowering Plants
Rumex crispus Flowering Plants
Sagina intermedia Flowering Plants
Salsola kali Flowering Plants
Sonchus arvensis Flowering Plants
Suaeda fruticosa Flowering Plants
Tanacetum vulgare Flowering Plants
Tripleurospermum maritimum Flowering Plants
Veronica longifolia Flowering Plants
Vicia cracca Flowering Plants
Ethelcus verrucatus Invertebrates
Pseudomogoplistes squamiger Invertebrates
Sitticus inexpectus Invertebrates
Trichoncus affinis Invertebrates

Vegetation types

Relation to vegetation types (syntaxa)

Not available
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