Maritime habitats are ideal subjects for ecological study. They are comparatively simple and some are distinctly zoned. Their controlling environmental factors can usually be defined and isolated. The dynamics of their plant and animal communities can be observed more easily than those of many other habitats. The effects of climate change on sea levels and wave action is bringing a new urgency to many of these studies.
The Field Studies Council have long been involved with maritime studies at their coastal field stations, and publish simple keys to identifying seashore and marine life. The Marine Conservation Society (see below) runs an annual beach survey linked to studies of marine and coastal litter and pollution. The bibliography lists several relevant texts on the study of beaches, sand dunes and other maritime ecosystems. There is a large amount of information on the internet regarding coastal studies, and some of the main websites are in our list of useful contacts.
Marine Conservation Society
The Marine Conservation Society is the UK national charity dedicated to the protection of the marine environment and its wildlife, and runs several surveys relating to the marine environment. Beachwatch, which was started in 1993, is a practical environmental initiative to raise awareness about marine and coastal litter, to monitor levels and sources of litter on Britain’s beaches and to encourage action to reduce marine and coastal pollution at source. The annual Beachwatch beach clean and survey takes place each September. Other initiatives include the Adopt a Beach campaign, the Basking Shark Watch and the Curio Survey, which gathers information on the sale of marine curios. Divers are involved through Seasearch, and the Ocean Vigil encourages mariners to report sightings of marine life. The Marine Conservation Society has links with other European and worldwide marine and coastal initiatives. The Good Beach Guide is an annual publication from the MCS which reports on the state of Britain’s beaches and coastal waters.
Tidy Britain group
As part of their work to reduce litter, promote recycling and improve local environments, the Tidy Britain Group administers the annual Blue Flag awards for beach cleanliness, water quality and sound environmental management. The Blue Flag programme is a European initiative covering 21 countries.
Surfers Against Sewage
Surfers Against Sewage was founded in 1990 and has had considerable success in campaigning for improved sewage treatment to eliminate pollution of coastal waters and beaches throughout the UK. Surfers Against Sewage continue to monitor water quality and campaign for further improvements in sewage treatment.