Essex Estuaries SAC

Status: Designated

Description

Site overview

This is a large estuarine site in south-east England made up of coastal mudflats and sandbanks. Lots of little sea creatures call this area home, including the reef-building worm and the brittlestar. There are also large, nationally-important beds of dwarf eelgrass here.

MPA Type

Special Area of Conservation

Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) are strictly protected sites designated under European legislation. They contribute both to the UK MPA network and set up to protect habitat types and species considered to be most in need of conservation at a European level (excluding birds).

Designation date

1 October 1996

Surface Area

460.97 km2 (177.98 mi.2)

Perimeter

437.01 km (271.54 mi.)

Coordinates (central point)

51° 39' 50" North, 0° 57' 26" East

  • Atlantic salt meadows (Glauco-Puccinellietalia maritimae)

    Areas with specially adapted plants found in the upper reaches of saltmarshes that are not always reached by the tide. The habitat is used for grazing, but is also very important for birds.

  • Estuaries

    The downstream part of a river, where it nears the sea, which is influenced by the tide These complex habitats can include areas always submerged by the tide as well as those exposed at low tide. They can be exceptionally important feeding and breeding ar

  • Intertidal mudflats and sandflats (Mudflats and sandflats not covered by seawater at low tide)
  • Subtidal sandbanks

    Sandbanks which are slightly covered by sea water all the time

  • Glasswort and other annuals colonising mud and sand (Salicornia and other annuals colonising mud and sand)

    Specialised plants able to thrive in the lower reaches of saltmarshes where the vegetation is frequently flooded by the tide. It is important as it can help the development of more stable saltmarsh.

  • Mediterranean and thermo-Atlantic halophilous scrubs (Sarcocornetea fruticosi)

    Scrubby plants that look a lot like Mediterranean vegetation and grow in the uppermost levels of saltmarshes, often where there is a transition from saltmarsh to dunes. 

  • Cord-grass (Spartina swards (Spartinion maritimae))

    This specialised plant grows on the seaward edge of saltmarshes and  on creek edges.

Did you know?…

An area over 9 times the size of Wales is now in marine protected areas in the UK, but less than 1% is considered by MCS scientists to be well managed

Over 500,000 records on undersea habitats and species have been collected by volunteer Seasearch divers providing significant evidence for inshore ‘marine protected areas’

To the shelf limits, Scotland has 61% of UK waters, of which 23% are now in existing or new ‘marine protected areas’

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