In the Zone

© Amy Marden

If you've been for a walk along our shores, you've likely noticed how varied they are. From sand to boulders, flat expanses to steep inclines, these spaces are as diverse as the wildlife that calls them home.
Channel Wrack Nigel Phillips

Intertidal zones are competitive worlds where conditions can be immensely tough, but for species with the right adaptations these watery Wild Wests have much to offer.

Make a splash
The splash zone is the area just above where the water reaches at high tide. Constantly sprayed by breaking waves, this space suits species that thrive out of sea water but have a high tolerance for the salt left behind when it evaporates. 

Lichens are common residents of the splash zone. These hardy organisms are actually formed of two partners that would otherwise need gentler conditions to survive: a fungus and an alga. The fungus gathers moisture and nutrients from its surroundings, while the alga produces energy through photosynthesis.  

High and dry 
The upper shore is the area at the limit of high tide. It's exposed for most of the day, enjoying only short periods under water. Residents must be able to combat desiccation, heat, and plenty of sunlight, as well as collision with breaking waves when the tide is in. 

Only a few specialised seaweeds can live this far up the shore. Channelled wrack can survive up to eight days out of water thanks to the eponymous channels along its fronds - in fact it dies if submerged for too long! Spiral wrack, though not quite as hardy, can survive losing 80% of its water content. As it dries, it curls its fronds into spirals to conserve precious moisture. 

Beadlet anemone © Paul Naylor

Beadlet anemone © Paul Naylor

Best of both 
The middle shore is a place of extremes, with residents having to be equally comfortable in and out of the water. They face desiccation when the tide is out, and buffeting by wave action when the tide is in, as well as long periods in dramatically different temperatures. 

Animals with shells that can trap seawater are ideal candidates, as this ability can be used to both preserve moisture and maintain body temperature. The acorn barnacle clamps four hard plates over its opening, keeping them shut until the tide comes in.  

Wet and wild 
 The lower shore is the last area to be uncovered by the tides. Only exposed for short periods, it's home to wildlife that can't stand a lot of air, heat, or direct sunlight.  

The beadlet anemone uses special stinging cells called acrorhagi to deter predators and defend its territory; these bright blue beads are the source of its name. The fish known as a shanny, or common blenny, will also see off attackers and rivals - in this case with a bite from its strong, sharp teeth. 

To learn more about our marine environment check out our project Secrets of the Solent: hiwwt.org.uk/SecretsoftheSolent 

Nature at home 

Lots of us are doing DIY at home and tidying up the garden, but what can we do with our unwanted items such as an old bedside cabinet? Why not build your own luxury bug hotel and create a safe hideaway for wildlife.
Ideally pick a spot that catches both sun and shade and include:

  • Dead wood, loose bark, dry leaves and sticks or straw for creepy crawlies like beetles and ladybirds.
  • Holes and small tubes (not plastic) for solitary bees made from bamboo, reeds or drilled logs.
  • Corrugated cardboard for lacewings.
  • Larger holes with stones and tiles to provide the cool damp conditions for frogs and toads.

 This is the perfect garden craft for the whole family to get stuck into.

Nature Notes 

The Wildlife Trusts are bringing #30DaysWild back for its sixth year. Throughout June, #30DaysWild asks people to take part in one act, big or small, of wildness a day, encouraging people to connect with the natural world. Anyone can participate from the comfort of their own homes. After all, wildlife is constantly flying past our windows, visiting our balconies, and living in our gardens.

Research has shown that feeling connected to nature and simply looking out your window can have many positive impacts on both your physical and mental health. Everyone should have the opportunity to experience the joy of wildlife no matter who or where they are.

There were 10 million acts of wildness last year. Let’s do more.  Sign up today to get your FREE digital guide to 30 days wild - wildlifetrusts.org/30-days-wild-2020