Sponges and anemones (Credit Paul Hymers)
Deeply incised chalk reefs support colourful sponges and anemones, while ross worm reefs mixed with mussel beds provide valuable habitat for a diversity of small crustaceans and molluscs.
Running between Kingsdown, Deal, to the north and Dover to the south is an important stretch of rich chalk reef, lying below the famous white cliffs of Dover.
The naturally eroding chalk cliffs give rise to boulder-strewn shores, and shaded habitat for unusual assemblages of colourful sponges and sea squirts.
The chalk platform extends across the shore and out to sea, with deep sand-filled gullies between tall ridges of chalk covered in seaweeds, sponges and anemones. Large crabs and lobsters find shelter within the chalk in recesses, while baby cuttlefish swim around the outcrops, demonstrating their amazing camouflage.
Farther offshore, the chalk gradually becomes covered in coarse sediments. Here, thousands of sandy tubes made by tiny ross worms form significant reefs which can harbour a wonderful diversity of wildlife and support the whole food web.
This site is very important for the network. The consultation proposes 13 features for protection in this MCZ, including 7 broad habitat types, one species (the native oyster) and 5 habitat feature of conservation importance.
Defra notes that the site contains the best example in the region of wave-cut chalk platform shores, and that St Margaret’s Bay has one of the richest communities of seaweeds in the south east. The subtidal chalk reefs and blue mussel beds are other important habitat features listed for protection. This site contains the best example in the region of rossworm reefs, which unusually occur on the chalk shore as well as in the subtidal area. Defra’s consultation states that the site helps to address a gap in the network for rossworm reefs, and for intertidal under-boulder communities - periodic cliff falls result in areas of the shore being covered in chalk boulders, which provide refuge for sponges and other attached animal life on the damp and shaded undersides.
It is disappointing that the site boundary has been moved 500m away from Dover harbour wall which will exclude areas of important intertidal and subtidal chalk. It is disappointing that 6 broad habitat types present in the site have been omitted from the list of features to protect, due to insufficient evidence.
This recommended Marine Conservation Zone is under consideration for the second tranche of MCZs
This site is important- it has the best regional example of rossworm reefs, which occur on the shore and subtidally. The wave-cut chalk habitat is also considered to be the best in the region. This chalk habitat has also been identified as being at risk of damage and degradation by Natural England and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee.
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Dive video of this site
Contains UKHO Law of the Sea data. Crown copyright and database right and contains Ordnance Survey Data Crown copyright and database 2012
Other nearby MCZs