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Status: National Nature Reserve
Essex Wildlife Trust reserve
Summary: A few other coastal Essex sites have some shingle banks, and several others have tracts of sandy ground. However, no other location has such extensive dune, shingle ridges, the mix of shingle, sand and mud substrates and the gradation of saltmarsh onto these drier habitats.
Reason for interest: Colne Point is one of the most important areas in the county for scarce invertebrates, and is also of national importance. A substantial number of the species are to be found in only a handful of other locations in Britain. In an Essex context the area is unique.
Comment: Tidal or strandline debris in the form of seaweed, wood and general debris is also an important habitat for a number of species of great conservation significance, including some for which Britain supports internationally important populations. It is important to leave strandline debris undisturbed and to try and prevent public access along the beach having an impact on these features.
The vegetation cover of large areas is also very important and unique in Essex in an invertebrate context. There are large areas of lichen heath (important for certain spiders and other species) and Shrubby Seablite (which provides a structural habitat very similar to heathland e.g. for the unique Essex colour form of the crab spider Philodromus histrio). The east dune is the best dune habitat in Essex, providing a full range from fore dune through to stabilized rear dune and dense marram (almost certainly crucial for species such as Grey Bush-cricket).
Saltmarsh is an important habitat at the reserve and one that covers a very large proportion of its area. Apart from the extensive tracts of Sea Purslane and hydrological systems that supports a number of scarce invertebrate species, Golden Samphire and Sea Aster are important plants that support dependent species either as foodplants e.g. for the RDB3 picture-winged fly Myopites eximius on Golden Samphire or pollen resources e.g. for the mining bee Colletes halophilus, a mining bee with internationally important populations on the coast of south-east England and present at Colne Point in huge numbers.
Sparsely vegetated and bare ground areas are also valuable components of the habitat for many species, and are especially important to the ground nesting aculeate Hymenoptera. Even quite small areas of sunny bare ground can be important to these species. Bare soil offers a number of benefits. In particular it warms up rapidly in sunshine, it is used by burrowing and ground nesting species and for egg laying and it provides a clear visual field for predators (Key 2000). Rabbit activity has exposed sand in various locations, and these are important for ground nesting mining bees such as Colletes halophilus. Current levels of disturbance appear low and this should be maintained.
Large numbers of invertebrates have larvae that develop in or on the roots, stems, leaves, buds or seeds of different plant species, and these species are therefore dependent on a continuity of these resources. Management of the habitats present on the reserve is not required, and so these resources are always available in the unmanaged system present.
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