Wales has 2,700 km of coastline. The coastal margins ecosystem is made up of saltmarsh, sand dunes, sea cliffs, shingle and saline lagoons. It represents just 3% of the semi-natural habitats in Wales.

Confined to an often-narrow zone these habitats form the transition between the land and the sea. Historically, significant losses have occurred due to land claim, agricultural intensification and development.

Naturally dynamic, coastal margins can shift or change as they experience erosion, accretion (growth/increases), longshore drift, seasonal changes and storms.

Strong patterns of different plant communities can develop because of differences in exposure to salt spray, tides and succession. The coastal zone is highly biodiverse and is characterised by specialised species adapted to maritime conditions.

The Welsh coastline is celebrated for its iconic scenery and it is popular for both recreation and tourism. This brings benefits for both the economy and personal well-being.

Coastal margin habitats play an important role in contributing to flood protection over much of the Welsh coastline by either acting as a barrier to flooding or a buffer by absorbing wave energy.

Traditionally a high proportion of coastal habitats have been managed for agriculture (mostly grazing), which is often important for the maintenance of good quality habitat.

Coastal margins are now at the front line in terms of climate change, they are threatened by sea-level rise and accelerated erosion.

Our assessment

The chapter highlights the various pressures impacting on the status, extent, condition and diversity of the coastal margin ecosystem. The opportunities to improve the resilience of coastal margin and secure well-being are outlined.

The Coastal margins chapter's evidence needs are included in the overall evidence needs table.

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