This is a static version of the conservation advice for this site, generated on 20/09/2019.
Please check the latest advice for this site at https://designatedsites.naturalengland.org.uk/
Natural England Conservation Advice for Marine Protected Areas
Pagham Harbour SPA

Natural England guidance

This site collection contains Natural England’s conservation advice for this site. It fulfils Natural England’s responsibility under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (as amended), to give advice on how to further the conservation objectives for the site, identify the activities that are capable of affecting the qualifying features and the processes which they are dependent upon.

Natural England's conservation advice for this site is made up of a number of components. You will need to consider: Additional information for consideration:

Site information

Site name: Pagham Harbour SPA
Designation type: SPA
Site identification: UK9012041
Latest classification date: 25 August 1988
Qualifying features
(click to see site specific description):

Common tern (Sterna hirundo), Breeding

The common tern is an Annex 1 species and the breeding population is a qualifying feature of the Pagham Harbour SPA. The wider Solent has a long history of occupation, and the breeding population here forms 2.2% of the national population. The terns migrate annually from throughout the southern hemisphere to nest in Europe during the late spring to the end of summer, which approximately equates from April to August along the south-coast of the UK.

In Pagham common terns roost and breed on the bare and lightly vegetated shingle of Tern Island and the shingle spits on either side of the harbour entrance. These open habitats are vulnerable to human disturbance and predation although in Pagham the RSPB implements active management to counteract these pressures. Nesting sites that occur below the Highest Astronomical Tide mark are also at risk from rough weather, flooding and rising sea levels.

The terns hunt by diving in shallow waters, catching small fish (sand eels, sprats), small crustaceans (shrimps, prawns and small crabs), worms and molluscs. The birds forage in the shallow seas and permanent open water channels at low tide, and during high tide opportunistically expand to the intertidal mudflats, sandflats, and saltmarsh within the SPA. Foraging common terns have a much larger range than little terns, and have been observed 10km away from the nearest colony.

SubFeatures

Atlantic salt meadows (Glauco-Puccinellietalia maritimae)

Coastal lagoons

Freshwater and coastal grazing marsh

Intertidal coarse sediment

Intertidal sand and muddy sand

Mediterranean and thermo-Atlantic halophilous scrubs (Sarcocornetea fruticosi)

Water column


Dark-bellied brent goose (Branta bernicla bernicla), Non-breeding

At time of classification in 1988, the population of dark-bellied brent geese overwintering in Pagham Harbour frequently exceeded 2000 individuals, which was 2% of the European population. Since 2007 the wintering population has stabilised to around 2500-3000 birds, the current 5-year average (2011/12-2015/16) is 2657 birds.

Dark-bellied brent geese migrate from the Arctic circle to winter in the warmer UK. Wintering dark bellied brent geese come to Pagham and other south coast harbours to graze on the Zostera spp. (sea grass) and green marine algae which grow in the harbours and on the surface of the mud flats. The algae in Pagham, mainly Ulva lactuca and Enteromorpha spp., are of primary importance as a food and the large population of brent geese has led to a decline in the amount of green algae in the harbour. This has led to large numbers of geese foraging in the surrounding agricultural land, outside of the European marine site.

The geese roost on the open water channels in order to minimise predation by foxes and other terrestrial predators, making this very important habitat. The higher areas of salt marsh also provide a safe haven for brent geese while foraging. On the highest spring tides the geese feed on fields adjacent to the SPA but return readily to the salt marsh and mudflats to feed when the tide begins to recede.

SubFeatures

Atlantic salt meadows (Glauco-Puccinellietalia maritimae)

Freshwater and coastal grazing marsh

Intertidal coarse sediment

Intertidal mud

Intertidal sand and muddy sand

Intertidal seagrass beds

Mediterranean and thermo-Atlantic halophilous scrubs (Sarcocornetea fruticosi)

Salicornia and other annuals colonising mud and sand

Spartina swards (Spartinion maritimae)

Water column


Little tern (Sternula albifrons), Breeding

Breeding populations of little tern are a qualifying feature of the Pagham Harbour SPA, designated in 1988. At the time of classification the size of the breeding colony fell under the typical SPA qualification thresholds. However, Pagham’s long history of natural occupation and its placement in the core south-coast range of little terns (near Chichester and Langstone harbours) allowed their addition as a feature of the SPA, protecting the ‘most suitable territories’ (Stage 1.4). Over the last 5 years (2012-2016) an average of 14 breeding pairs have been observed at Pagham Harbour, which is 0.7% of the national breeding population. This includes the particularly productive 2015 season when 18 pairs successfully raised 16 fledglings, and in again in 2016 when 13 pairs raised 11 fledglings.

Little terns are the smallest species of tern, and migrate from all over the southern hemisphere to the UK to breed. The little terns roost and nest in the bare shingle habitats of the harbour, which includes Tern Island and the shingle spits forming the entrance to the harbour. Pagham Harbour is one of the few sites left in the UK with high-quality breeding habitat for little terns: isolated shingle habitats in which they hide their nests, adjacent to rich coastal waters to fish in.

The nests are bare scrapes in the shingle housing 1-3 well camouflaged eggs, but the open habitat leaves the nests vulnerable to predation and to disturbance. Active management by the RSPB to counteract these pressures has resulted in a notable rise in the number of pairs and the number of chicks successfully fledged. Rising sea levels and increasing climate variability also increase the risk of nests being washed away during bad weather.

The little terns forage in the marine habitats both inside and adjacent to the SPA, fishing for sprat and sand eels in the permanent water channels of the harbour and in the shallow coastal waters to the south. Breeding pairs form when a wooing male gives his female a small fish, and as little terns rarely venture more than 6km from their nesting sites the little terns will also forage for small crustaceans, worms and molluscs in the intertidal habitats of the surrounding saltmarsh and mudflats.

SubFeatures

Coastal lagoons

Intertidal coarse sediment

Intertidal sand and muddy sand

Water column


Ruff (Calidris pugnax), Non-breeding

Notable populations of ruff have not been observed on this site since time of classification 1988. Historical records beginning in the early 1960's show large and variable populations of Ruff in Pagham Harbour between late 1970 to 1990, numbers which have not occurred before or since (Holt et al., 2015). In 1988 (creation of the SPA) the overwintering ruff populations in Pagham averaged 160 individuals, a significant 10% of the European population (English Nature (EN), 1988). However by 2006 the JNCC recorded an average of 10 individuals over 5-years (1995-1999) as a baseline for the SPA, which constituted 1.4% of the European population. The current (2010/11 to 2014/15) 5-year average for Ruff on the site is 1 individual (Holt et al., 2015), and there is no clear reason as to why numbers have varied so significantly. The overall decline of Ruff on the site is contrary to the national trend, which shows an increase from <50 to approximately 200 individuals overwintering between 1985 to 2005, then a small decline and plateau to 100 individuals since then (Holt et al., 2015).

In Pagham wintering ruff feed primarily on invertebrates in wet/damp grassland in winter, but will feed occasionally in other habitats, including intertidal areas and saltmarsh. The ruff generally roost in the grassland areas, and have most often been observed in these sections to the north-east of the main harbour (English Nature (EN), 2001). However it is possible the ruff would also use other undisturbed habitats for roosting, such as the remote vegetated shingle of Tern Island.

SubFeatures

Atlantic salt meadows (Glauco-Puccinellietalia maritimae)

Coastal lagoons

Freshwater and coastal grazing marsh

Intertidal coarse sediment

Intertidal mud

Intertidal sand and muddy sand

Salicornia and other annuals colonising mud and sand

Spartina swards (Spartinion maritimae)


General information on the site features:
You can find generic information on the qualifying species from the following websites: The generic information on the supporting habitats for the qualifying features is useful for understanding the qualifying features, and should be used in conjunction with the site specific information.
Designated area (ha): 629.01
Component Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI):
Overlapping Protected Areas:

Last updated: 15th September 2017

Background information and geography

Pagham Harbour SPA lies between Bognor Regis and Chichester in West Sussex.The many natural habitats contained within and around the small harbour support a notable abundance of wildlife, as recognised in the additional Ramsar, SSSI and MCZ designations. The estuarine basin is made up of an extensive central area of saltmarsh and intertidal mud-flats, surrounded by lagoons, shingle, open water, reed swamp and wet permanent grassland. The mud-flats are rich in invertebrates and algae, and provide important feeding areas for the many bird species that use the site. The local RSPB have managed the site as a local nature reserve (LNR) since 2013, amplifying the productivity and variety of species present.

There are four features of the SPA: overwintering dark-bellied brent geese, Branta bernicla bernicla; overwintering ruff, Philomachus pugnax; breeding common tern, Sterna hirundo; and breeding little tern, Sterna albifrons. The site also regularly hosts internationally significant populations of overwintering northern pintail, Anas acuta, although this has not yet been formally made a SPA feature.

Each of the current four features are unique in their usage of the site. Brent geese graze on the seagrass and algae in the intertidal areas, and roost on the water. The two tern species breed on the shingle habitats near the harbour entrance and depart on foraging trips to the coastal waters. Ruff has not occurred in the site in notable numbers for many years, although individuals do often overwinter in the wet grasslands to the north of the LNR.

Site maps

Use the MAGIC website to see site maps, including habitats, species and other marine designations.

These maps are based on best available evidence, there are some caveats associated with the maps on MAGIC.

There are some instances where the feature, subfeature or supporting habitat name varies on MAGIC from the conservation advice. The alternative names are listed on gov.uk.

The dynamic nature of habitat features and supporting habitats for mobile species is illustrated where data is available, as new evidence becomes available these maps will be updated with our current knowledge of their known extent.



Conservation objectives

The site’s conservation objectives apply to the site and the individual species and/or assemblage of species for which the site has been classified (the "Qualifying features" listed above).

The objectives are to ensure that, subject to natural change, the integrity of the site is maintained or restored as appropriate, and that the site contributes to achieving the aims of the Wild Birds Directive, by maintaining or restoring:
  • the extent and distribution of the habitats of the qualifying features
  • the structure and function of the habitats of the qualifying features
  • the supporting processes on which the habitats of the qualifying features rely
  • the populations of each of the qualifying features
  • the distribution of qualifying features within the site

Qualifying features

Refer to the site information table above for the list of features within this site.

This should be read in conjunction with the accompanying supplementary advice section, which provides more detailed information to help achieve the objectives set out above, including which attributes should be maintained and which restored.

The conservation objectives apply under the Habitats Regulations, and must be considered during a Habitats Regulation Assessment, including an Appropriate Assessment.

The conservation objectives and accompanying supplementary advice provide a framework to inform the management and measures needed to conserve or restore the European site, and the prevention of deterioration and significant disturbance of its qualifying features.

Where the objectives are met, the site will be considered to show a high level of integrity, and to be contributing to achieving the aims of the Habitats Regulations.

Supplementary Advice on Conservation Objectives

See supplementary advice on conservation objectives for this site, which aim to describe the range of ecological attributes that are most likely to contribute to a site’s overall integrity.

Last updated: 13th September 2019


Advice on Operations

See the advice on operations for this site to view information on the sensitivity of features in this site to the pressures exerted by different activities.

Last updated: 13th September 2019


Advice on Seasonality

See the advice on seasonality for this site, to view the months in which each mobile feature occurs in this site.

Last updated: 20th March 2017


Feature Condition

In 2016, Natural England trialled and rolled out a new Marine Protected Area (MPA) condition assessment methodology that provides robust results and information on the condition of marine features designated within MPAs in England. With guidance from National teams and using all available evidence and condition monitoring data, Area Teams conduct these assessments following a standardised approach that assesses if the feature and sub feature conservation targets set for each MPA have been met.

To date, condition assessments have been completed for a number of features in a range of marine Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) by the National and Area Teams. Further marine habitat features in SACs and other MPAs will continue to be assessed in the future. The new method can now also be applied to complete habitat and species condition assessments for other MPAs in England, whilst still meeting the different processes in place to report on the results of condition of features in Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs). Different processes are currently in place to decide and report on the condition of non-marine habitat and species features of SACs.

The main part of the assessment process is directly undertaken and stored here on Natural England’s Designated Sites View. The details for the most recent assessments of this site can be found here.

Management measures

If you are carrying out an environmental assessment, planning an operation or assessing an operation or proposal, it is important to consult with the following organisations where applicable. To find out if any management measures, byelaws or other restrictions apply to your activity see the management measure page or you can use the following links for more information.

The Marine Management Organisation license, regulate and plan marine activities in the seas around England and Wales so that they’re carried out in a sustainable way.
Environment Agency are responsible for regulating major industry and waste, water quality and resources, fisheries, inland river, estuary and harbour navigations, conservation and ecology.
Offshore Petroleum Regulator for the Environment and Decommissioning (OPRED) regulates oil and gas, CCS and gas storage activities in the marine environment.

Further information

For further information relating to this designated site you can refer to the following resources:
Site specific information: Other information:
For further information about this site contact: Natural England enquiries Telephone: 0300 060 3900. Email: enquiries@naturalengland.org.uk


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