Red List habitat classification > RL - Marine habitats > RLNEA - Atlantic > NEAA2.23 Polychaete/amphipod-dominated Atlantic littoral fine sand

Polychaete/amphipod-dominated Atlantic littoral fine sand

Quick facts

Red List habitat type code NEAA2.23
Threat status
Europe Data Deficient
EU Data Deficient
Relation to
Source European Red List habitat factsheet
European Red List of habitats reports
European Red List of habitats (Excel table)


This intertidal habitat is associated with shores of clean, medium to fine and very fine sand, with no coarse sand, gravel or mud present. Shells and stones may occasionally be present on the surface. The sand may be duned or rippled as a result of wave action or tidal currents. The degree of drying between tides is limited, and the sediment usually remains damp throughout the tidal cycle. Typically, no anoxic layer is present. Fine sand communities may be present throughout the intertidal zone on moderately exposed beaches, or they may be present on the lower parts of the shore with mobile sand communities present along the upper shore. They support a range of species including amphipods and polychaetes. A strandline of talitrid amphipods typically develops at the top of the shore where decaying seaweed accumulates.

Littoral sediment features are generally dynamic, and their  extent will vary on diurnal, lunar and seasonal cycles, driven by tidal regime, prevailing weather conditions, coastal and geomorphological processes. The associated habitats can therefore exhibit considerable natural variation. Fine sand shores may show seasonal changes, with sediment accretion during calm summer periods and beach erosion during more stormy winter months. There may be a change in sediment particle size structure, with finer sediment grains washed out during winter months, leaving behind coarser sediments.

Indicators of quality:

Both biotic and abiotic indicators have been used to describe marine habitat quality. These include: the presence of characteristic species as well as those which are sensitive to the pressures the habitat may face; water quality parameters; levels of exposure to particular pressure, and more integrated indices which describe habitat structure and function, such as trophic index, or successional stages of development in habitats that have a natural cycle of change over time.

There are no commonly agreed indicators of quality for this habitat, although particular parameters may have been set in certain situations e.g. protected features within Natura 2000 sites, where reference values have been determined and applied on a location-specific basis.

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

Threat status

Synthesis of Red List assessment

This habitat is relatively common where littoral sand flats are able to form and consequently has a considerable natural range throughout the North East Atlantic region. Littoral sediment features are generally dynamic, and change in extent is difficult to quantify due to the natural processes, such as current/drift, wave action and wind, but historical losses are known to have occurred. The communities associated with this habitat are also naturally extremely variable often reflecting the shifting seasonal nature of the shore sediment, which is predominantly influenced by weather and tidal events. While there have been known losses as a result of human pressures, the scale of these losses are unknown when considered within a regional context.
This habitat has a large EOO and AOO, and therefore qualifies as Least Concern under criterion B. However the habitat is assessed as Data Deficient both at the EU 28 and EU 28+ levels given the lack of information on its trends in quantity and quality.
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Data Deficient
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Data Deficient

Confidence in the assessment

Red List of habitat categories and criteria descriptions

Pressures and threats

  • Urbanisation, residential and commercial development
    • Discharges
  • Biological resource use other than agriculture & forestry
    • Fishing and harvesting aquatic resources
    • Professional active fishing
    • Benthic or demersal trawling
  • Pollution
    • Pollution to surface waters (limnic, terrestrial, marine & brackish)
    • Nutrient enrichment (N, P, organic matter)
  • Natural System modifications
    • Human induced changes in hydraulic conditions
    • Modification of hydrographic functioning, general
  • Climate change
    • Changes in abiotic conditions
    • Changes in biotic conditions

Habitat restoration potential

Field study evidence suggests that intertidal sand communities have a strong capacity for natural recovery following chemical or physical disturbance via rapid recolonisation through bedload transport of juveniles and adults. This is particularly quick for polychaete-dominated assemblages, with community structure becoming re-established within a matter of months following the removal of the pressure.
As a consequence of this, the biological communities are highly resilient and are able to replenish and restore themselves after a major disturbance event over very short periods of time.

Trends in extent

Average current trend in quantity

Unknown Unknown
EU28 EU28+

Trends in quality

Average current trend in quality

Unknown Unknown
EU28 EU28+

Conservation and management needs

Beneficial management measures include the regulation coastal developments and hard coastal defence structures, water quality improvement programmes to reduce the risk of toxic contamination and nutrient enrichment, and control including restrictions on intertidal fisheries which affect the associated communities.

List of conservation and management needs

  • Measures related to wetland, freshwater and coastal habitats
    • Restoring/Improving water quality
  • Measures related to marine habitats
    • Other marine-related measures
  • Measures related to urban areas, industry, energy and transport
    • Urban and industrial waste management
  • Measures related to special resouce use
    • Regulating/Managing exploitation of natural resources on sea


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

Seas Present or presence uncertain Current area of habitat (Km2) Recent trend in quantity (last 50 years) Recent trend in quality (last 50 years)
Bay of Biscay and the Iberian Coast Present Unknown Unknown Unknown
Celtic Seas
Greater North Sea

Extent of Occurrence, Area of Occupancy and habitat area

Extent of Occurrence (EOO) (Km2) Area of Occupancy (AOO) Current estimated Total Area Comment
EU28 455,215 182 Unknown EOO and AOO have been calculated on the available data. Although this data set is known to be incomplete the figures exceed the thresholds for threatened status.
EU28+ >182 Unknown EOO and AOO have been calculated on the available data. Although this data set is known to be incomplete the figures exceed the thresholds for threatened status.
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.
Invertebrates Arenicola marina
Invertebrates Cerastoderma edule
Invertebrates Gammarus locusta
Invertebrates Hydrobia ulvae
Invertebrates Mya truncata
Invertebrates Pygospio elegans
Invertebrates Scoloplos armiger
Species scientific name English common name Species group
Arenicola marina Invertebrates
Cerastoderma edule Invertebrates
Gammarus locusta Invertebrates
Hydrobia ulvae Invertebrates
Mya truncata Invertebrates
Pygospio elegans Invertebrates
Scoloplos armiger Invertebrates

Vegetation types

Relation to vegetation types (syntaxa)

Not available

Other classifications

Not available
European Environment Agency (EEA)
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