Littlehampton West Beach

Littlehampton west beach consists of fringing shingle adjacent to the dunes then fine sand angled at approximately 1.6°, extending some 280m from the edge of the dunes to mean low water. The mean splash zone below the dunes extends some 15m to the mean spring tide line followed by the mean tidal level 27m in front of the dunes and the neap tide level at 38m. This part of the shore is completely dry most of the time. Below this the sand is compact and wet at low water. Scattered and areas of cobbles and pebbles appear and disappear from season to season. These can support attached algae, shore crabs, shellfish, etc. Areas of the beach can be extensively covered in drift weed torn up from the sublittoral and including mermaid’s tresses, Chorda filum, green algae and a rich variety of red algae. At extremely low water springs these rich ‘seaweed gardens’ become uncovered and support a diverse range of life.

Aerial view of Littlehampton West Beach with harbour arm.

Aerial view of Littlehampton West Beach with harbour arm.

Close to the harbour arm and a little off-shore, the freshwater from the River Adur has some influence on the species found. Notable on the harbour arm is the dominance of the freshwater tolerant introduced barnacle Elminius modestus that came in from New Zealand during WWII. It very successfully competes for space with the acorn barnacle Semibalanus balanoides that only occurs as isolated individuals on the harbour arm.

Lug worm, Arenicola marina and associated fauna including occasional sand mason worms, Lanice conchilega, occur in the sand from the mid shore to low water.

The 2015 survey yielded relatively few species associated with the harbour arm, far fewer than previous years. Whether this is significant is not clear as faunal diversity can go up and down over time and the effects of winter/spring storms etc can severely restrict growth and colonisation early in the year. Very few patches of barnacle spat were evident in 2015 compared to previous years. There was also a distinct lack of hydroids, fewer littorinids and fewer littorinid species, and fewer dogwhelks, Nucella lapillus, present.

Species Recorded are given below followed by a gallery of images.

Species Common Name / Description SACFOR*
2014 2015
Obelia geniculata A seafir C
Dynamena pumila A seafir O
Anemonia viridis Snakelocks anemone R
Lanice conchelega Sand Mason sand by harbour arm O
Arenicola marina Lugworm sand by harbour arm F O
Pomatoceros triqueter Keel worm R R
Alcynidium gelatinosum A sea mat – bryozoan R
Cerastoderma edule Common cockle sand by harbour arm R
Mytilus edulis Edible mussel A C
Crepidula fornicata Slipper limpet O R
Gibbula umbilicalis Flat top shell R
Gibbula cinerarea Grey top shell O
Littorina littorea Common periwinkle O O
Littorina saxatilis Rough periwinkle O R
Nucella lapillus Dogwhelk F R
Balanus perforatus Volcano barnacle O
Elminius modestus A barnacle [mis-id as Sem-bal in 2014] A A
Semibalanus balanoides Acorn barnacle R R
Crangon crangon Brown shrimp sand by harbour arm O
Carcinus maenas Shore crab R R
Paleamon serratus Common Prawn pool by harbour arm O R
Gammarus locustra A sand-hopper C O
Melita gladiosa A sand-hopper C
Pontophilus fasciatus A shrimp R
Lipophrys pholis juvenile shanny pool by harbour arm legs O O
Pleuronectes platessa juvenile plaice R
Ammodytes tobianus Lesser sand eel R
Pleuronectes platessa (juv.) Plaice (juv.) R
Pomatoschistus minutus Sand goby R R
Fucus serratus Serrated wrack O
Fucus vesiculosus Bladder wrack O F
Ulva linza Gut weed – green algae F C
Ulva lactuca Sea lettuce – green algae O R
Polysphonia sp. Red algae R
Dilsea carnosa Red rags R
Osmundia pinnatifida Pepper dulse NOT = Gelidium pusillum? O O
Porphyra purpurea A purple laver F
Corallina officinalis Coral weed R
Phymatolithon sp. A paint weed R
Red 1 tiney tough branching A mid lower
Red 2 fine nodular hairy A lower
Red 3 smll narrow flat branched F lower
Ceramium check sp . A pincer weed R

* Abundance scale SACFOR: S Super abundant; A Abundant; C Common; F Frequent; O Occasional; R Rare.

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