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Marine Habitat Classification

Description of biotope or habitat type

To understand more about what this page is describing, see How to use the classification. See also How to cite.

   Barren or amphipod-dominated mobile sand shores

Physical habitat description

Salinity Full (30-35 ppt), Variable (18-35 ppt)
Wave exposure Exposed, Moderately exposed
Tidal streams
Substratum Sand
Depth Band Lower shore, Mid shore, Upper shore
Other Features

Download comparative physical and biological data. The comparative tables enable a rapid comparison of the species composition and principal physical characteristics between a given set of biotopes.

Distribution of habitat LS.LSa.MoSa Barren or amphipod-dominated mobile sand shores

  • Records used to define the biotope (core records)
  • Other records assigned to this biotope, marked as 'certain'
  • Other records assigned to this biotope, marked as 'uncertain'

Point data based on records in the UK Marine Recorder Snapshot.


Shores consisting of clean mobile sands (coarse, medium and some fine-grained), with little very fine sand, and no mud present. Shells and stones may occasionally be present on the surface. The sand may be duned or rippled as a result of wave action or tidal currents. The sands are non-cohesive, with low water retention, and thus subject to drying out between tides, especially on the upper shore and where the shore profile is steep. Most of these shores support a limited range of species, ranging from barren, highly mobile sands to more stable clean sands supporting communities of isopods, amphipods and a limited range of polychaetes. Species which can characterise mobile sand communities include Scolelepis (Scolelepis) squamata, Pontocrates arenarius, Bathyporeia pelagica, B. pilosa, Haustorius arenarius and Eurydice pulchra.


Mobile sand shores are typically situated along open stretches of coastline, with a relatively high degree of wave exposure. Bands of gravel and shingle may be present on the upper shore of exposed beaches. Where the wave exposure is less, and the shore profile more shallow, mobile sand communities may also be present on the upper part of the shore, with more stable fine sand communities present lower down. A strandline of talitrid amphipods (Tal) typically develops at the top of the shore where decaying seaweed accumulates.

Temporal variation

Mobile sand shores may show significant seasonal changes, with sediment accretion during calm summer periods and beach erosion during more stormy winter months. There may be a change in sediment particle size structure, with finer sediment grains washed out during winter months, leaving behind coarser sediments.

Characterising species

Taxon Relative importance of taxon for defining this community (%) Typical abundance - SACFOR scale Typical abundance - (count per m2) % of core records where taxon was recorded
Eurydice pulchra 32 Frequent 67 41-60%
Pontocrates arenarius 18 Common 55 21-40%
Scolelepis squamata 16 Common 68 21-40%
Bathyporeia pilosa 8 Frequent 114 21-40%
Bathyporeia pelagica 6 Common 54 21-40%
Haustorius arenarius 6 Frequent 23 21-40%

Similar biotopes or habitat types

Not applicable or unknown.

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