The majority of my day was spent at one of our occasional staff meetings, a chance to catch up with what other members of staff have been doing, learn about the projects and discuss future direction. Despite their undoubted value, it is often difficult to be sat indoors on a fine day, although on such a warm day being in the shade was not that unwelcome.
After the meeting I went down to as saltmarsh site beside Southampton Water to try to assist with a research project looking at the worrying rates of change along the eroding outer edged of the marshes. Large sections of The Solent coast has a margin of saltmarsh, this narrow strip of habitat has a whole suite of specialised species that live nowhere else. Unfortunately sea level rise and the lack of space for these habitats to migrate inland is meaning they are disappearing as they get squeezed out of existence.
The saltmarsh along Southampton Water is very diverse with lots of the characteristic species of these habitats. The outer edges have banks of shells known as cherniers which can smother the vegetation, if they kill leaving bare mud this can get more easily eroded although it can be recolonised by plants such as glasswort.
The lack of freshwater makes a saltmarsh somewhat similar to a very arid area and some of the adaptations are similar, for example fleshy and glaucous leaves.
Inland from the shell banks the marshes are very flat, but still have variety in the form of creeks and subtle changes in elevation. These are enough to offer a variety of slightly different niches. In shorter areas sea-spurrey can be common and its starry flowers are popular with the insects that also live out on the marshes.
The higher areas of long-established marshes can have large areas of sea-lavender are very popular with insects and produce large swathes of colour.
Returning home I had time for a quick look at the meadow.
What’s in My Meadow Today?
There were several small skipper and a meadow brown or two in what is now a very dry meadow. Most of the grasses are brown or yellow, but the deeper rooted perennial herbs are still green and many in full flower. Wandering over the vegetation I found a 7-spot ladybird. This used to be our commonest larger ladybird, before the arrival of the harlequin ladybird from SE Asia, via the horticultural trade.