The Chesil Bank and Fleet Nature Reserve is designated a Special Site of Scientific Interest (SSSI), this designation is primarily for the internationally important seagrass beds that dominate the Fleet, owing to its soft sediments. In addition to this, the Reserve holds a number of other designations to which high levels of protection are awarded and the driver for the ongoing management that the Reserve Team strive to uphold.
Seagrass beds, such as the ones which exist in the Fleet, are a very rare and unique habitat, and are utilised by and attract a vast assortment of fauna. The seagrasses species that are found within the Fleet are Zostera marina and Zostera noltei and two species of tassel weeds (Ruppia maritima and Ruppia cirrhosa) and also Foxtail Stonewort Lamprothamnium papulosum.
The seagrass beds are of particular importance to our wintering waterfowl, providing ample food for the Dark-bellied Brent geese, to which we have internationally important numbers visiting the site, plus thousands of other wintering waterfowl. Of these winter visitors it is Wigeon and Coot that take advantage of this food source. Of course this plant also keeps the resident and visiting numbers of Mute Swans fed and in good condition throughout even the harshest of winters, where over 1200 swans can spend the colder months.
A vital study of the seagrasses within the Fleet and along a large stretch of the South Coast is being undertaken by The Community Seagrass Initiative, which is a citizen science project aiming to raise awareness of seagrass habitats in the South West of England. CSI is a pioneering research project led by the National Marine Aquarium. Covering the 191 mile stretch of coastline from Looe in Cornwall, to Weymouth in Dorset, it looks to find out more about native seagrass and seahorses and help to conserve their fragile eco-systems. Please do have a look at their website and the vital work they are doing by clicking the link above.
The two videos below show the beauty of the seagrass beds and how they provide such nutrients to this habitat.